COVID-19 update March 21: City activates Emergency Operations Center
The emergency resolution enacted by the Nome Common Council last week gives City Manager Glenn Steckman several ways to react quickly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is limited to be in effect until May 15, unless extended or rescinded by the council.
The ordinance contains language that empowers the city manager to “allocate, ration, or redistribute food, water, fuel, clothing and other items as deemed necessary to cope with the disaster emergency.” On social media posts began exploding with fears that personal fuel or foods would be confiscated. City Manager Glenn Steckman updated the Nome Nugget on Friday on recent developments and said in response to concerns of the extraordinary powers vested in him, “There is no intention to hurt people, there is no intention to take people’s food or oil!” He said in the emergency meeting in which the council voted on the emergency ordinance, that all decision he makes are coordinated with stakeholders and after consultation with many people and the council.
On Friday he reported to the Nugget that he spoke with the two grocery stores to assure that the food supply is not showing signs of depletion and that the supply chain is intact. Steckman said he assures that people of Nome that there is no need to hoard and that all decision he makes are coordinated with stakeholders and after consultation with many people and the council. The only things that are hoarded, he heard from store owners, are toilet paper and hand sanitizer. A statement from the City, issued on Friday, reads, “City of Nome Emergency Ordinance 0-20-7 includes proactive crisis measures such as limiting public access to and use of city facilities, restaurants, and bars, to reduce the possibility of infection and community spread of the virus. The ordinance does not mean City administration will redistribute personal supplies of food, water, or clothing. Instead, the City will work with local businesses to make sure that community members are able to purchase or otherwise obtain the food and household items that they need.” The statement continues to urge people to wash your hands, practice social distancing and to self-isolate if one is not feeling well. “We are all in this together and we will get through it together,” the statement reads.
City Hall is still open, city staff is still working, although foot traffic has greatly decreased.
What the city has done this week:
· The City activated the Emergency Operations Center at the Public Safety Building. Steckman explained that all city departments and key organizations critical to the response to COVID-19 have a gathering place, and while practicing social distancing, have the necessary infrastructure in place to react.
· The State of Alaska has preempted the city in ordering the shut down of bars and restaurants and to limit food services to take-out only.
· Per state mandate, all public schools are closed until May 1. In a statement, Nome Public Schools Superintendent Jamie Burgess wrote, “Our teachers are returning to work on Monday (some working from home due to quarantine), practicing isolation and social distancing to keep each other healthy, and spending next week learning together how to best provide instruction for our students in our new "distance" situation. Teachers and principals will be communicating out to our community as our plans come together, and you should plan to hear from someone at your school at least once directly next week (phone call, email, etc.). We are committed to not only academic instruction for our children, but also to finding ways to keep them active and creative, and to continue those student/teacher or staff relationships which we know are so critical.”
· The City opened the Rec Center to house NEST and Day Shelter clients starting March 23 in the gym. Norton Sound Health Corp. and Nome Community Center manage the shelters. NEST was overwhelmed with a spike in guests and there is more room in the Rec Center to spread out cots for social distancing. Steckman said due to travel delays due to the inclement weather, there is an expectation that more guests will show up at NEST.
· Nome Quick Stop at Front Street is asking customers to limit two customers at the time for Pull tabs games. AC and Hansons have dedicated the hours between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. for elders, pregnant and immune-compromised people shopping only.
What may come next week:
· The City is looking at limiting and curtailing passenger air traffic into Nome and out to the villages. Cargo air traffic is not affected.
The state of Alaska has issued the following mandates:
• All public schools are closed until May 1.
• Dental clinical settings and oral health professionals are recognized within the highest risk categories for both transmission and contraction of the coronavirus, as most dental procedures release significant aerosols in the operatory atmosphere. Therefore, in concurrence with recommendations from the American Dental Association (ADA), the Alaska Dental Society, and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, elective oral health care procedures are required to be postponed for a period of one month.
• All patients, providers, hospitals and surgical centers are required to postpone or cancel all non-urgent or elective procedures for three months to decrease the overall impact on the Alaska health care structure and preserve personal protective equipment. This would include pre-scheduled surgeries deemed non-essential. This mandate does not apply to surgical cases coming through the emergency room or for an existing hospitalized patient.
• Buckland posted that the City of Buckland has requested a ban of non residential members traveling in and out of Buckland for the next 30 days to be cautious of contamination of COVID-19, all residential members that are currently out of town and planning to come back home must call the City in advance of travel dates so their employees can call Bering or Ravn employees to allow them permission to get on a flight to back into Buckland.
•The City of Shishmaref issued a statement saying that all residents are mandated to self-isolate for two weeks upon return to Shishmaref. No large gatherings are permitted. Unnecessary travel is discouraged. And non-residents must make a request to Mayor Karla Nayokpuk to enter the community.