AP NEWS

Alaska to allow limited reopening of gyms, bars

May 7, 2020 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gyms, pools and bars will be allowed to open with limitations starting Friday under the next phase of the state’s plan to reopen parts of the economy that had been forced to shut down amid efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Other businesses that were allowed to reopen April 24, including retail stores, restaurants for dine-in services, personal care services and other businesses that were classified as nonessential, will be able to boost their capacity from 25% to 50% under plans announced Wednesday.

Starting Friday, bars, gyms, libraries, theaters and other entertainment venues can reopen with limited capacity, state health Commissioner Adam Crum said. With gyms, for example, a 10-foot distance will be required between people indoors. For pools, 50% of the pool’s capacity will be allowed, he said.

Local officials in Juneau don’t intend to open public facilities such as pools and libraries until the Assembly has had time to understand the state’s approach, according to a city release Thursday that encourages business owners “to proceed slowly and judiciously.”

The Assembly plans to hear from the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, on Monday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Wednesday that health is the top priority.

“But at the same time, I think we all realize that we have to make sure that we don’t lose our economy,” he said, adding later that the state’s numbers “compel us in a way to open up, responsibly.”

Initial unemployment claims for the most recent reporting week totaled 8,718, according to state labor department figures. That compares with 823 such filings during the same period a year ago.

Alaska has reported more than 370 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 10 deaths. The most recent death, announced Wednesday, was a man older than 80 from Anchor Point with pre-existing medical conditions, the state health department said. It was the first COVID-19-related death reported by the state since the death of a Wasilla woman April 12.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

While officials have said they feel good about how the state is doing, they urge continued general precautions, including maintaining physical distance from people not in one’s household and wearing cloth face coverings. Crum said online ordering for pickup or delivery is encouraged.

Zink said there’s capacity within the current group of just over 100 people doing contact tracing and other work. She said the goal is to build up to 500 people by the end of the month, if needed.

Alaska also recently received a supply of personal protective gear that Dunleavy said is supposed to last about six months.