Gov. Mike Dunleavy's new Emergency Declaration takes effect today. It will expire December 15, but could be extended by the legilature. It He also issued a series of health orders yesterday. Municipalities around the state, including the Fairbanks North Star Borough are following with their own emergency orders.
After a federal emergency declaration in January, Governor Mike Dunleavy issued an emergency declaration in March and that was taken up and extended by the Alaska legislature. That state declaration ended hours ago at midnight, so did the health mandates the governor started issuing in March.
A new, 30-day disaster declaration went into effect at 12:01 a.m. this morning. And with it comes eight new COVID-19 outbreak health orders. Some of the orders are similar to the previous mandates.
Another new order requires that travelers within Alaska who travel on the road system maintain social distancing until they have a negative test result for the coronavirus – that includes Alaskans traveling for Thanksgiving. While the other orders are effective today, that one goes into effect on Saturday. But local communities are allowed to impose their own travel restrictions. One of the orders continues to allow that.
Municipalities around the state have their own Emergency Declarations to take advantage of state and federal funding and health and social services powers.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly worked on extending its own COVID-19 emergency declaration last week. As a Second-Class borough, FNSB has very limited health and social services powers. But as assembly member Matt Cooper says, it will give the borough flexibility in the pandemic.
“This resolution doesn’t request mandates, it doesn’t request any specific policy decisions about going to work or going to school, or anything like that, it simply asks the legislature to issue a disaster declaration that allows local governments to continue assisting in Covid relief where we can.”
The Governor can only declare an Emergency for 30 days, which was what happened in March, before the Legislature acted with its greater power to pass Senate Bill 241. Now Assembly Member Liz Lyke says the legislature must act again, to extend the governor’s new Emergency Declaration before it expires December 15. A resolution before the Assembly last Thursday called for that and for the borough to extend its own Emergency Declaration.
“The real solution is for the legislature to somehow bring itself back; either the governor calls the legislature back into session, or the legislature brings itself into session. And we also have a part to extend our own declaration well into next year.”
Cooper says a State Emergency gives borough more eligibility for federal grants related to the COVID pandemic.
“Things like the Carlson Center as an alternate care facility may become a very important in the near future as well as the ability to administer funds like the cares grant funding there’s real practical local reasons why we need a continuing state declaration.”
The Carlson Center has been in a “warm ready” status with hospital beds set up since April.
Assemblymembers Lyke, Cooper and Leah Berman Williams sponsored the resolution with an end date of June 30. But Assembly member Aaron Lojewski thought taking the declaration out to June was too long, and moved to cut it off February 28. During discussion of that motion, Berman Williams suggested a compromise.
“I move to amend the amendment to say March 31 instead of February 28. It seems like a compromise between people who don’t really want to extend it at all, and people who want to extend it another seven months. So, I’m OK with it.”
That amendment passed and the resolution was approved.