State office building closed after virus case reported
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered a state building in Anchorage closed Friday after a worker there tested positive for COVID-19, his office said.
The Atwood Building will be cleaned over the weekend, with plans to reopen it Monday, according to a release from Dunleavy’s office.
Earlier this week, Dunleavy issued an order requiring all employees, contractors and visitors to state facilities across Alaska to wear a mask if it is not possible to stay at least 6 feet apart. The order applies to areas such as elevators, stairwells, hallways and offices, and stresses other actions, including hand-washing and distancing.
In late June, when Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz signed an order requiring face coverings in certain indoor public settings in the municipality, state Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said the order did not apply to state buildings and facilities in Anchorage. But Clarkson said Dunleavy supports state employees who choose to wear face coverings. Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the Clarkson memo was drafted at Dunleavy’s request.
Dunleavy has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate. In a media briefing Wednesday, he said the mask issue has been politicized. He also said it didn’t make sense to issue a blanket mandate when officials in some communities have voted against requiring masks and some communities have not seen outbreaks.
“In Alaska, we want to be as targeted as possible,” he said.
Dunleavy said he didn’t see his mask order for state buildings as a big leap from the Clarkson memo. As case numbers grow, “we want to do our part in our state buildings,” he said.
The state already has encouraged teleworking and conducting business by remote means, Dunleavy said.
The state health department has reported 2,249 COVID-19 cases involving residents and 499 cases involving nonresidents. It also has reported 19 COVID-19-related deaths.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.
New restrictions took effect Friday in Anchorage, as ordered by Berkowitz, in a bid to curb the virus’ spread amid what the local health director called an “exponential growth” in cases. The order, among other things, restricts certain gathering sizes and imposes capacity limits for bars, restaurants and indoor entertainment and recreation venues.