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March 23, 2020

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Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19.
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Alaska: Alaska Orders 14-day Self-Quarantine for All Incoming Passengers; Punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 Posted/Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the high incidence of travel-related infection, the State of Alaska has instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming passengers.

The potential for widespread transmission of COVID-19 by infected individuals entering Alaska threatens the health and well-being of Alaskans, as well as the infrastructure and security of the state. In an abundance of caution and to assist in flattening the curve regarding the spread of COVID-19 in Alaska, the State of Alaska, under its authority to protect the public health, is implementing advanced protocols to ensure all travelers arriving in Alaska participate in 14 consecutive days of self-quarantine to begin immediately upon arrival, allowing for travel from an airport or portage to the designated quarantine location.

The State of Alaska issued its tenth health mandate today based on its authority under the Public Health Disaster Emergency Declaration signed by Governor Mike Dunleavy on March 11, 2020. The mandate goes into effect March 25, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., and will be reevaluated by April 21, 2020.

This mandate is issued to protect the public health of Alaskans. The Governor looks to establish consistent mandates across the state in order to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The goal is to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the virus.

The purpose of this mandate is to control the ingress to Alaska from outside localities in order to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. - More...
Monday PM - March 23, 2020

Alaska: COVID-19 Update: 36 Cases in Alaska; No new cases in Ketchikan By Mary KAUFFMAN - The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today announced four new cases of COVID-19. All of the new cases were adults living in Anchorage and all are travel-related. Ten new cases were detected Sunday, bringing the total case count as of 3 p.m. today to 36 total positive cases in Alaska which includes the 6 in Ketchikan.

The ten (10) new cases announced Sunday of COVID-19 were in three Alaska communities – Anchorage (7), the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (2) and Juneau (1). All cases Sunday were in adults; none were hospitalized. All of these persons are isolating themselves at home and their close contacts are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms. One of the Anchorage cases had recent travel outside of Alaska. The remaining cases are not known to be travel-related at this time. The Section of Epidemiology is continuing to investigate these cases in cooperation with Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, the Anchorage Health Department and local public health nurses.

“At least two of the new [Sunday] Anchorage cases that we are investigating have no clearly identified contact with a confirmed case,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s State Epidemiologist. “This indicates that community transmission of COVID-19 appears to be occurring in the Anchorage area.”

According to the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC), there have been no new reports of COVID-19 cases in Ketchikan since Saturday, March 21st. The total of positive cases in Ketchikan remains to be six (6).

In keeping with the emergency Ketchikan-Saxman mayoral proclamation issued on March 21st, Ketchikan citizens are strongly urged to hunker down, shelter in place, and stay home, in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

Public Health has continued to monitor the individuals who were identified as close contacts to the individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. Public Health will notify and isolate additional persons as appropriate. Through the contact investigation, Public Health will direct testing of persons that meet criteria based on contact with any confirmed case of COVID-19. Individuals who meet the criteria are being tested in accordance with CDC and State of Alaska priorities. - More...
Monday PM - March 23, 2020


Alaska: Alaska Senate Passes State Operating Budget with COVID-19 Response Funding Edited/Posted By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaska Senate today passed a bill funding state government for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year, a partial capital budget, and emergency funding to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

House Bill 205 totals $4.73 billion in state unrestricted general funds. It holds operating expenses relatively flat at $4.61 billion; provides $116.8 million for a capital budget to repair roads, bridges, and address other critical infrastructure needs; and spends $80 million to help Alaskans mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. 

“This budget provides for the basic needs of Alaskans across this state and gives our healthcare professionals the necessary resources to fight the battle against this virus,” said Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. 

“Alaska is experiencing a perfect storm,” said Senator Natasha von Imhof (R-Anchorage) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “We are being hit on all sides with the stock market crash, oil prices plummeting, and the tourism and fishing season all but idle. This budget flat-funds government and provides critical funding to address the coronavirus threat.”    

“This budget responds to the immediate needs of Alaska’s families and businesses,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage). “I am immensely proud of my colleagues on the finance committee for their diligent work on this budget during these extraordinary times. We must do all we can to protect Alaskans from the health and economic damage of this virus.”  

The bill provides for a $1,000 Permanent Fund dividend this fall. It also appropriates an additional $680 million above the Percent of Market Value (POMV) limit to be distributed equally, before July 1, among every Alaskan who was eligible for the 2019 dividend. 

In a letter to SitNews, Rep. Dan Ortiz wrote, "We do not have the money available to pay a large dividend payout. I understand at this time, a dividend to individuals and families is more important than ever. The amount has not yet been settled upon yet, but I expect the Legislature to vote on the budget, including dividends, this week." - More...
Monday PM - March 23, 2020


Alaska: Bill expanding unemployment benefits for Alaskans impacted by COVID-19 Passes Alaska Legislature - Today, a bill that will make it easier for Alaskans facing economic impacts due to the outbreak of COVID-19 to access unemployment benefits cleared its final legislative hurdle.

House Bill 308 passed the House of Representatives on a 37-0 vote, one day after it passed the Senate, 19-0. The bill, which now heads to the governor’s desk for final approval, is a critical step in the effort to provide much needed aid and comfort to Alaskans displaced by this deadly virus. 

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage) is the House Labor and Commerce Committee chair and the bill’s prime sponsor. “We have seen a 700 percent increase in unemployment benefit applications over the last month as hard-working families are forced to lose work, hours, or pay because of the public health crisis around this disease,” Representative Spohnholz said. “Alaskans need help now, and this bill provides critical relief for these families.”

The bill allows Alaskans who have lost work, whether from being forced to stay at home and care for children displaced from school or childcare, or those who lost employment when their employer’s business closed, to apply for unemployment benefits from the State of Alaska. It also makes the state eligible to receive federal unemployment insurance grants authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The bill waives the normal one-week waiting period and the requirement that those affected be ready and able to work, as many Alaskans will be forced to remain indoors. HB308 also removes the cap on the number of dependents cared for in the bill and increases the allowance for dependents from $24 to $75 per dependent per week.

Sen. Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks) sponsored the Senate companion bill, SB240, and said, “Alaska workers have been paying into our unemployment insurance trust fund with every paycheck, and it is our duty to allow them to access those benefits they have paid for if they are unable to work due to the coronavirus outbreak.”

The speedy passage of this bill – from its introduction on March 18 to a final floor vote on March 23 – represents true bipartisan effort to respond to a crisis. This would not have been possible without support of leadership in all bodies, and the sponsors thank all legislators and the Department of Labor for their support. - More...
Monday PM - March 23, 2020


Alaska: Alaska kids can get out and play during social distancing, but avoid indoor play dates - Communities across Alaska are now recommending hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines that have led to a change in how kids should play to prevent the spread of coronavirus, also called COVID-19. In these communities, families should avoid indoor play dates. According to the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services, they should prioritize playing outdoors with family only. Doing an outdoor activity in the same area with a small group of non-family members would be OK only if you could ensure non-family members stayed at least 6 feet away.

Louisa Castrodale, epidemiologist with Alaska’s Division of Public Health, updated answers to how families can still be active under these new guidelines. Castrodale also advised families to stay up to date with their community’s guidelines. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is updating its coronavirus information daily.

Can children get out and play right now?

Children can definitely get outside and play right now, but they need to do it carefully. Activity is so important for kids’ physical health, and also for their mental health. Physical activity can help them feel better and reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress, which may be showing up during this challenging time.

Children can run around, hike, bike, sled, cross country ski and do other activities as long as the weather and conditions allow. The most important recommendation is to give each other space while doing these activities. Spread yourselves out and maintain 6 feet of distance from people other than family members.

Should families avoid play dates in communities with hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines?

The Ketchikan area and other communities such as the Municipality of Anchorage, have hunker-down guidelines in place that states people should not invite friends or family members to their homes for a visit.


“What that means is families should avoid indoor play dates in communities with hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines,” Castrodale said.

“We recognize this is really hard for kids who feel isolated and can be stressful, but it’s needed for the time being to limit the potential spreading of illness.”

Families should prioritize playing outside with their family members. If non-family members are playing in the same area, they need to stay at least 6 feet away. This may be difficult for families with little children who are too young to understand how to maintain a safe distance from others, Castrodale said.

If you play in the same areas as other families, choose activities that are easier to do with distance – like hiking and biking. She also recommended avoiding activities that involve direct contact with non-family members, like football or tag. 

“Contact sports are best to avoid right now,” she said. - More...
Monday PM - March 23, 2020

Health: Study reveals how long COVID-19 remains infectious on cardboard, metal and plastic; Research suggests that people may acquire the coronavirus through the air and by touching contaminated surfaces - The virus that causes COVID-19 remains for several hours to days on surfaces and in aerosols,  published in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

The study suggests that people may acquire the coronavirus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. Scientists discovered the virus is detectable for up to three hours in aerosols, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

"This virus is quite transmissible through relatively casual contact, making this pathogen very hard to contain," said James Lloyd-Smith, a co-author of the study and a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "If you're touching items that someone else has recently handled, be aware they could be contaminated and wash your hands."

The study attempted to mimic the virus being deposited onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting by an infected person through coughing or touching objects, for example. The scientists then investigated how long the virus remained infectious on these surfaces.

The study's authors are from UCLA, the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Princeton University. They include Amandine Gamble, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher in Lloyd-Smith's laboratory.

In February, Lloyd-Smith and colleagues reported in the journal eLife that screening travelers for COVID-19 is not very effective. People infected with the virus -- officially named SARS-CoV-2 -- may be spreading the virus without knowing they have it or before symptoms appear. Lloyd-Smith said the biology and epidemiology of the virus make infection extremely difficult to detect in its early stages because the majority of cases show no symptoms for five days or longer after exposure. - More...
Monday PM - March 23, 2020


JASE GRAVES: SPEND QUALITY TIME IN SELF-QUARANTINE - In addition to the truly grave aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a first-world problem that parents all over America are facing – along with looking for a creative and non-abrasive substitute for toilet paper – is how to keep their children wholesomely occupied while schools are closed. This can be especially challenging for parents already in a constant struggle to keep their adolescent offspring from becoming permanently grafted onto their smartphones.

In an effort to encourage my three teen daughters to use their unexpected break from school as a time for personal growth (and cheap labor), I’ve developed a list of activities that I hope will benefit the entire family and society as a whole.

First, as referenced above, finding toilet paper has become more difficult than an adult listening to an entire Billie Eilish song without wondering if something might be terribly wrong with the speakers. (Yes, I know she’s rich, and yes, I’m just jealous.)

Why not combine arts and crafts with personal hygiene? I’m thinking of having my children weave bathroom tissue from common household objects – like the fuzz under our couch cushions, pet hair plucked from my black dress pants, and a stockpile of our dryer and belly button lint. Just think of how rewarding it will be when your children clean themselves with something that they’ve crafted with their own hands – while you save the store-bought stuff for yourself.

Next, it’s important to teach our children compassion by checking on elderly neighbors during times of crisis to be sure they are safe, well supplied and sufficiently annoyed by people checking on them. If you do take your children to visit a nearby senior citizen, be sure to practice social distancing by remaining at least six feet away so that your neighbor is more likely to miss when they throw a can of hominy at you and tell you to get off their porch. And if you notice a lonely senior trying to survive without a sufficient number of bored and whiny teenagers around, offer to keep them company by having yours camp in their back yard for the next month. - More...
Monday PM - March 23, 2020

jpg Political Cartoon: Work & Schooled at Home

Political Cartoon: Work & Schooled at Home
By Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News, NY
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Alaska Revenue Update By Rep. Dan Ortiz - The State of Alaska has been operating at a deficit. This is nothing new and has been the primary challenge for the Legislature over the past five years. However, this year, some new wrenches were thrown into the equation: decreasing oil prices and the stock market. Unfortunately, the State of Alaska revenue comes almost solely from those two sources.

For decades, oil covered over 80% of our budget until oil prices and production decreased and we began relying on savings and the Percent of Market Value (POMV) draw. Now, oil accounts for approximately 20% of our revenue. Despite that decrease, oil price and production are still vitally important to our revenue. Our original Fiscal Year 2020 Revenue Forecast assumed $63 per barrel for oil, but that is no longer the case. We have been hovering under $30 per barrel for multiple days, which impacts our current budget (FY2020). We are now assuming a reduction of about $300 million for FY20. If prices stay low, which we expect, it will also impact the budget we are currently working on for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2021. The original forecast for FY21 was $59 per barrel, but we now assume $40 per barrel, which is a decrease in revenue of about $550 million. Those are optimistic numbers, and I expect our loss of revenue to actually be much more. - More...
Monday PM - March 23, 2020

jpg Opinion

Ketchikan Borough Mayor's Message By Rodney Dial - As many of you know, yesterday a confirmed COVID-19 case was discovered in Ketchikan. As a result, several individuals who had contact with this individual, including myself, are now in a 14-day quarantine. Many more are choosing to self- isolate at home out of an abundance of caution.

As such, many people in our community will be in quarantine until early April. Based upon available information regarding this virus, it is very possible that others in our community had/have the virus before the confirmed case was known. We knew this was coming and there will be few, if any, locations in the world that will not be impacted before this is over. We are also likely to see additional cases in Ketchikan in the future.

Ketchikan citizens should take comfort in the following: - More...
Thursday PM - March 19, 2020

jpg Opinion

Through it all Alaskans prevail together By Governor Michael Dunleavy - As our nation and the world experiences the life-altering impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to take a moment to speak to you directly. If you’ve followed our many press conferences this week, you know that Alaska is rapidly preparing for an outbreak, and that an emergency was declared prior to our first confirmed case.

Now that the inevitable first case has occurred, our schools are safely closed, testing requirements have been liberalized, and steps have been taken to protect our seniors. Visitation has been suspended or limited at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Alaska Military Youth Academy, Department of Corrections’ facilities, and the Alaska Pioneer Homes.

But ultimately, we know that this virus will spread. For America, experts believe the worst is yet to come. While we will undoubtedly slow the rate of infection with our diligent mitigation efforts, many Alaskans will be infected.

Most will recover, but others, despite our best preventive efforts, will suffer life-threatening complications. It’s vital to acknowledge that each of our decisions in the coming days and weeks will directly affect these numbers. Follow Dr. Zink’s guidelines, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and do not put vulnerable populations at risk. These small, albeit inconvenient changes, will save lives.

As I’ve said many times this week, it’s equally important that we do not live in fear of the virus. Our response should be steady and practical. I’m confident Alaskans will approach this challenge as we’ve always done – with determination, ingenuity, and compassion for our neighbors. - More...
Tuesday AM - March 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

Coronavirus Update By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Last week, Alaska had its first case of the Coronavirus: a cargo pilot traveling through Anchorage. With the amount of travel that Alaskans have done over the last month, it is likely that there are more untested and unverified cases already here.

There is certainly no need to panic, but let’s err on the side of caution. One thing you can do is stay informed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website updated multiple times per day. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has a webpage dedicated to the virus in Alaska that is updated daily.

You know the drill - wash your hands! If you are able, please stay home, especially if you are showing any symptoms. Do not unnecessarily overstock toiletries, and be willing to share or donate if you bought in bulk. Practicing ‘social distancing’ will slow down the spread of the virus, putting less immediate pressures on our health care system.

Our local government officials are doing great things to help contain the virus and protect the people. School Districts across the state have extended spring break an additional week until March 27th. The City and Borough of Wrangell closed the Nolan Center (including the Theater), the Public Library, and the Swimming Pool and Recreation Center for at least two weeks. - More...
Tuesday AM - March 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

The Healing Power of Soldier’s Heart By Major Andrew Greenstreet, Alaska State Troopers - When a toddler went missing one evening nearly 30 years ago, the Sitka Police Department was called to canvas the neighborhood with the family and volunteers. On scene, a police officer entered the family’s home to comb every closet, every corner; and, soon he found her. She’d walked across a Jacuzzi soft cover, fallen in, and drowned. 

An ambulance whisked the little girl away; but of course, it was too late. Then, abruptly, everyone left.

The 24-year-old officer found himself in his patrol car, alone with the horror he’d just experienced. He thought about his daughter asleep in her bed at home – she was the same age as the child in the Jacuzzi. Later that night, when his shift was over, he would go home and hug his daughter. Everything would be good then, right? In the meantime, his therapy would be finding a dark, winding road and spending 10 or 15 minutes driving, just driving, until he could put on a good face and go back to work.  - More...
Tuesday AM - March 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

Thank You By Michele Zerbetz Scott - On behalf of the Museum Advisory Board and the museum staff, thank you to the community of Ketchikan for your tremendous response to the exhibit, “Into the Wind”, at the opening reception March 6. Your enthusiasm for and recognition of the importance of aviation to our town is greatly appreciated.

Our thanks to the Kayhi Culinary class, led by Cameo McRoberts, who provided the delicious food. Their careful research helped us eat our way through the years of airplane food service. It was a delicious reminder of days gone by of feasting on shrimp salad and filet of beef.

Thank you to the museum staff who brought together this piece of our history and all the volunteers who contributed their expertise and valued historic items. - More...
Tuesday AM - March 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

The Hoarding Public By Donald Moskowitz - The coronavirus outbreak has panicked people into hoarding food, paper products and sanitizing compounds. Consumers across the country are conducting binge purchases of these products and most supermarkets are reporting bare shelves and difficulty in restocking these products. The binging activity is very un-American.

There is no need for people to be stocking up on food and other supplies that will last for a year or more. It is reported consumers are purchasing large quantities of toilet paper. Maybe they should be eating less so they can cut back on their defecation and use less toilet paper. 

My wife and I shopped twice last week and we went through the express line of 12 items or less both times, which is typical food shopping for us. - More...
Tuesday AM - March 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

Reform? Reshape? Really....? By Percy Frisby - In regard to the recent press conference with Governor Dunleavy and Commissioner of DOT John Mackinnon... - More...
Monday PM - March 09, 2020

jpg Opinion

The House Passes a Budget By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Earlier last week, the Alaska House of Representative passed the operating budget. It took the House 43 days of session to pass the budget, which is the fastest we have passed one since 1993. I am proud with how quickly, efficiently, and cooperatively we worked to get it done. - More...
Monday PM - March 09, 2020

jpg Opinion

Seniors Park Your Money Now By David G Hanger - Rick Santelli was his usual obnoxious self when on CNBC he suggested exposing everyone to the coronavirus, so that the effect on the markets and the economy would be short-lived; and he did in hindsight apologize for his bluntness; but the very clear point he has made is that the impact on the markets and on the economy is unpredictable and apparently long-lasting. The trend on the markets is down, and there is no identifiable bottom currently discernible. - More...
Monday PM - March 09, 2020

jpg Opinion

House Bill 62 By John Suter - The state should put in HB 62.  HB 62 is the bill that says when a person calls in another person to the authorities and says that person has guns and you think that person could be a danger to society, then the authorities come in and takes those guns away.  - More...
Monday PM - March 09, 2020

jpg Opinion

Reject recall, Keep Gov. Dunleavy By Cynthia Henry- We need your help. Alaska is facing an important political issue that could change the course of our great state. I have followed state and local government in Alaska for more than four decades and have never been more dismayed by the actions of some political activists who didn’t get their way. We need the help of good men and women. - More...
Tuesday PM - March 03, 2020

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