City Manager Glenn Steckman and Mayor Richard Beneville hold a press conference on Monday. KNOM's Emily Hofstaedter records.

Nome limits non-essential travel to Nome, restricts visits to grocery stores and limits hours of alcohol and pot stores

In a press conference on Monday afternoon at the Council Chambers at City Hall, Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman and Mayor Richard Beneville announced a series of emergency orders to combat the COVID-19 pandemic that has already at press time risen to 36 confirmed cases in Alaska. Four of those cases are so-called community cases, meaning the person had not been traveling outside Alaska prior to infection. So far no COVID-19 related death has occurred.

Three emergency ordinances were issued on Monday. One ordinance, Emergency order 2020-01 limits travel to Nome. It says “the most effective way to prevent introduction of the COVID-19 virus to Nome is through prevention of persons from outside Nome who are infected with COVID-19 from entering Nome through the Nome Airport Terminal and City Field.” The order in essence creates an Essential Air Travel District at both the Nome Airport and City Field. From midnight on Thursday, March 26 on, only Alaska Airlines, RAVN, Bering Air and “any other certified air carrier” may use or enter the Essential Air Travel District. City Manager Steckman clarified that cargo planes are included and allowed to land and offload their cargo.

The order also mandates that only persons “identified as critical infrastructure workers can enter the Essential Air Travel District and people who have applied for and been issued an Essential Air Travel Service use permit by the City Manager can come into Nome and persons “providing transportation to the Essential Air Service District” can enter.

Since all of Alaska Airlines flights to Nome originate in Anchorage —so far there are 17 known COVID-19 cases in Anchorage— the order mandates that all persons traveling into the City of Nome are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving and to monitor for symptoms. The order is in effect from March 26 until midnight, April 14.

Steckman said the City asks for all residents of Nome to come home and self-quarantine and not travel outside until April 14. He said Alaska Airlines is in constant communication with him and the city and that they are willing to cancel all flights to Nome. However, Steckman said that he’s asking them to not cancel, but reduce their passenger flights to one plane a day to Nome and to keep cargo planes coming so that the supply of food and other household goods remains uninterrupted.

At press time Alaska Airlines spokespersons have not responded to a request from The Nome Nugget to clarify Alaska Airlines flight schedule for both passenger and cargo flights.

Asked how the city enforces that indeed only “essential” people and returning Nome residents are entering Nome, and that the usual influx of seasonal gold miners to Nome is limited, Steckman said there are no enforcement capabilities and that people need to be respectful and heeding the city’s message of “stay away” and to indeed self-quarantine for 14 days. Steckman strongly suggested that Nomeites curb those weekend shopping trips to Anchorage and to just stay put. The same, he said, goes for city personnel. Since some officers at the Nome Police Department are two weeks on and two weeks off, living in other parts of Alaska, Steckman has asked them to remain in Nome even in their off time. If they chose to fly out, they need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Nome, during which time they won’t get paid.

On March 20, the United States State Department issued a level 4 travel advisory to NOT travel, advising Americans to not travel out of the country.

Social distancing and limiting the frequency of contact between people is the subject of the other two emergency orders that were made public on Monday. Arguing that grocery stores usually have more than ten patrons in the store and that it is hard to maintain a six foot distance to the next person, the emergency order 2020-03 orders “as of 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, 2020 no person may enter a retail grocery store in Nome more than twice during any calendar day.” The order is in effect until April 14.

The third order limits hours of alcohol and marijuana retail establishments, arguing that the stores selling pot and alcohol are small and it’s hard to maintain the recommended six-foot distance to the next person. Also, alcohol and marijuana “facilitates social gatherings of more than ten people especially when those purchases are made later in te evening.”  Effective Tuesday, March 24, at 7 p.m. hours of alcohol package stores and marijuana stores are to be close between 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and closed between noon and midnight and after 7 p.m. on Sundays.

In a press conference on Monday evening, Governor Mike Dunleavy, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink and Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum announced a state order to self quarantine. Effective 12:01 a.m. March 25, 2020, all people arriving in Alaska, whether resident, worker or visitor, are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for illness. Arriving residents and workers in self-quarantine, should work from home, unless you support critical infrastructure. Upon arrival in any community in Alaska from another state or nation, people must directly go to their quarantine location (home, hotel or rented lodging) and they must fill out a mandatory travel declaration form. They may leave the designated quarantine location only for medical emergencies or to seek medical care. They cannot visit any public spaces, such as pools, meetings rooms, fitness centers or restaurants. Do not allow visitors in or out of your designated quarantine location other than a physician, healthcare provider, or individual authorized to enter the designated quarantine location by Unified Command.

Any violation can be punished with a $25,000 fine or even prison.

The state also issued a health mandate to shut down hair salons, day spas, nail salons, barbers, tattoo shops, body piercing shops, massage therapy businesses and tanning facilities. Additionally, no gatherings of more than 10 people may take place, and if a gathering does take place people must be six feet apart from each other.

Ending the press conference in Nome’s Council Chambers, Steckman and Beneville appealed to common sense and to people heeding the warnings to not gather, to practice social distancing, to not travel, to stay put and to wash hands. Any advice to our readers to deal with the situation?

“Be patient,” said Steckman. “Relax,” said Beneville. “The world is taking a deep breath.”

See ordinances below.

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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