Vaccination clinic

After receiving the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination, clinic attendees must wait for 15 minutes before leaving the Carlson Center to make sure they suffer no side effects. 

With the state COVID-19 emergency declaration having expired Sunday and Gov. Mike Dunleavy issuing a transition plan, travelers arriving to Alaska are now not required to get tested for the virus.

Travelers still can receive a test, now free of the $250 charge, regardless of their residency.

“The ability to get tested will remain at the airport for several months,” Dunleavy said during a Sunday news conference. “The obvious change at the airports is that there will be no mandatory testing; there will be optional testing if you want it.”

Since testing stays available, Fairbanks International Airport won’t see any difference in providing tests to arriving visitors, the airport manager Angie Spear said.

Besides the change in testing mandates, Dunleavy spoke about the new transition plan which describes safety recommendations, more guidance for travelers and critical infrastructure workers.

Safety recommendations predominantly stay the same: The governor advises wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing, staying at home when sick and frequently washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. As for traveling recommendations, the new advisories still prohibit traveling for anyone positive for COVID-19 and still recommend pre-travel negative tests, even though they are not mandatory anymore.

Another advisory suggests for rural communities to allow travel for critical infrastructure personnel and community members traveling for critical personal needs.

The transition directive will stay in place until the Alaska Legislature determines how to proceed, according to the news release.

“Over the next several weeks, commissioners will review and advise the governor on which policies are still necessary to keep in place to ease the burden on the public’s interaction with government, and which items he should allow to lapse,” the release stated.

Since March and until this Sunday, Alaska has been under the emergency declaration. The state government extended the declaration in November and then in January, but this time, Gov. Dunleavy let it expire, basing his decision on the low number of cases and hospitalizations, as well as on progress in vaccinations.

“Make no mistake about it, the virus may be with us for some time,” Dunleavy said. “But the data shows that the worst is most likely behind us. Alaska’s vaccination plan is one of the most successful in the country and we have faith that the health care system is robust and prepared.”

Because of the statewide positive trends, Dunleavy said he wants to “begin moving Alaska, its economy and our lives forward through this transition and recovery process.”

Regardless of the state decision, Dunleavy pointed out that first-class cities such as Anchorage, Nome and Homer will decide for themselves whether they want to declare or extend the declaration. From about 150 cities in Alaska, only 19 are considered first-class and have the authority to do that.

While the state declaration emergency has ended, Dunleavy also reminded that the pandemic is still lingering and the state will continue its management of the virus and the vaccination rollout as before.

The director of the Department of Public Health, Heidi Hedberg, echoed the governor’s optimistic outlook on the statewide COVID-19 trends, but warned Alaskans about the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus and its new variants.

“At this time, our case numbers are stable, our health care system is not overwhelmed, and our most vulnerable populations — our elders — are vaccinated if they desire,” she said. “We still need to be vigilant: light is at the end of the tunnel with the increasing availability of safe and effective vaccines, but COVID is still circulating widely across the country, including Alaska.”

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.