Gov. Mike Dunleavy told reporters Tuesday evening the final phase in reopening the state from COVID-19 related closures will go into effect Friday morning.
This means all businesses, churches, libraries, museums, sports and recreational activities may open to 100% capacity Friday at 8 a.m.
Dunleavy explained that Alaskans are still "encouraged" to maintain physical distance from others, regularly wash hands, avoid others if you are ill and wear masks when possible, but he added that the state is "switching from mandates to guidelines."
Just last week the governor allowed gyms and bars to open to 25% capacity. When asked if the state might be moving too fast, Dunleavy pointed to recent low daily case counts over the last week. The commonly accepted incubation period for COVID-19 is two weeks.
If there is a spike, the governor said, the state will address it at that point.
“Make no mistake. The virus is with us. We must function with it and manage it. There will be folks who contract the virus and fall ill, but if we follow these guidelines, we can help lower potential cases and keep our way of life intact with a few exceptions," he said. "We will monitor the situation daily as we have since this virus arrived in Alaska and we will adjust, if necessary, to handle a growth in case clusters to prevent cases spiking."
As seasonal work begins to increase and the state braces for a massive influx in out-of-state workers coming to Alaska for the commercial fishing season, the state Department of Health and Social Services is pairing with the Department of Transportation to launch testing stations at Fairbanks International Airport and Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage.
These stations are designed to test nonresidents entering the state for work. These include wildland firefighters and commercial fisheries workers. After the test is administered, the worker will remain quarantined either in Anchorage or Fairbanks until test results are returned from one of the two state labs.
The state is requiring pre-registration with the testing vendors before the nonresident worker arrives in either community but did not clarify how a nonresident worker should register ahead of time.
The health department has entered into contracts with two private health organizations to administer the testing. Capstone Clinic, a Southcentral Alaska health care provider, will run the testing site in the Anchorage airport and Beacon, a locally based occupational health company, will operate the Fairbanks site.
If the test is positive, the worker will be required to remain in quarantine. If the test is negative, the worker will be allowed to travel to the community of work but will be required to continue the two-week mandatory quarantine once there.
The state health mandate requiring all individuals traveling from outside the state to quarantine for two weeks once entering Alaska remains in effect until June 2.
Two nonresident commercial fisheries workers tested positive for COVID-19 in Alaska within the last week.
The Department of Health and Social Services reported no new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, with the state total remaining at 399. However, the Department of Corrections announced Tuesday that an inmate at the Anchorage Correctional Complex had tested positive for the disease.
The Department of Corrections is in the process of working with state epidemiology workers and the Department of Health and Social Services to trace contacts of the inmate and test those who may have been exposed.
A total of 348 of the 399 who tested positive are reported to have recovered, according to state health department data.
The state had performed a total of 36,380 tests statewide as of Tuesday afternoon.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.