City manager says reopening businesses is ultimately a local decision

On Monday night Gov. Mike Dunleavy outlined a cautious plan to reopen some businesses like restaurants, and hair and nail salons. The governor did not give many details on what would need to happen before regulations are relaxed, but said things could start to loosen up as early as next week.

City manager Mike Tvenge says local government is working with businesses and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and Discover Kodiak, to see how loosening coronavirus restrictions would work in Kodiak.

“We’ll be talking to businesses and asking for their safety plans,” he said. “We’ll review those and see how they can open up safely. This is an objective for this week … it doesn’t mean we’re going to open up Kodiak by this weekend.”

Tvenge says businesses have a lot to think about as far as safety protocols go. To maintain social distancing in a restaurant, for instance, owners might need to plan for fewer staff or fewer tables. They might need to set up a reservation system for customers, so people aren’t waiting for a table in close quarters.

Tvenge says they’ll follow state directives, but ultimately, decisions are made at the community-level.

“I think it’s pretty understood that all disasters are local, and we can treat our communities as we see fit,” he said. As far as the State Emergency Operations Center goes, they’re not going to tell us what to do or when to do it. They let us make that decision.”

For Kodiak, Tvenge says, opening the economy back up will come down to the numbers.

“What we’re really looking at is the data,” he said, noting that Kodiak has done 209 tests, with nine results still pending. “We only have one positive case to date, which is wonderful news. So as long as we keep that infection rate down or or low, will will be considering opening up generally.”

Alaska saw a two week straight decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases before Tuesday, when eight new cases were announced. Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer said that even as new cases see a mostly downward trend and the possibility of loosening business closures is floated, it’s important that people still observe careful pandemic precautions — avoiding large groups, wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing.

It’s also important to note that Kodiak’s six outlying villages, along with all other small, rural Alaskan communities off the road system and without hospitals, will still be able to enforce travel restrictions to their communities, even if the state begins to open up movement across cities.

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