Kodiak declares local public health emergency

The Kodiak Emergency Services Council unanimously declared a public health emergency Wednesday evening, according to City Manager Mike Tvenge, who serves as the emergency services director in Kodiak. 

The council is made up of the city and borough managers, the city and borough mayors, the Coast Guard Base Kodiak commander, the Kodiak Air Station commander and the Alaska State Troopers Kodiak post commander. 

The declaration makes the Kodiak city and borough eligible for state and federal assistance.

“The declaration will help bring financial resources to our community,” Tvenge said. The declaration also gives Tvenge the authority to “issue rules and regulations reasonably related to public safety.”

According to city and borough code, this includes obtaining supplies and equipment to mitigate the emergency and protect life and personal property.

“The goal of the emergency services council is to reduce the impacts of COVID-19 in our community. First, we’re going to try to reduce that spread,” Tvenge said.

Kodiak, which had no confirmed cases of the virus as of Wednesday evening, joins nine other communities in Alaska that have declared a state of emergency, according to Tvenge. 

“We need to protect our community and try to keep this COVID-19 out. This will also reduce the impact on our health care providers. They are all working hard, they are all geared up, and we want to give them the best tools and resources we can,” Tvenge said. 

The announcement came from Tvenge through a video message broadcast on the Kodiak Island Borough School District website and KMXT. Tvenge, who was flanked by other members of the Emergency Services Council, spoke for less than 10 minutes. Though the broadcast was advertised as a “live forum,” there was no opportunity for members of the public to ask questions. 

Tvenge said the Anchorage Airport is screening cargo and international flight crews for the virus. Ravn Air Group has also announced they will begin screening passengers and employees for COVID-19. However, general passenger travel is not being screened at this time.

“The Emergency Services Council is going to work with the Kodiak Airport to place signs recommending self-quarantine for travelers at the airport,” Tvenge said. “This is something that everyone has to take on their own. It’s not a mandate.”

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is currently mandating a 14-day self-quarantine for all travelers arriving in the state from China, South Korea, Iran and Europe. However, the mandate does not apply to travelers arriving in Alaska from other countries or places in the U.S.

Tvenge said self-quarantine is the most effective way to stop the virus from spreading. The city and borough have implemented mandatory 14-day quarantines for city and borough employees who have traveled recently. Ten city employees are impacted by this requirement. 

Kodiak has a healthy water supply, and the island will continue to receive regularly scheduled food shipments, Tvenge said, urging against concern about empty shelves in Kodiak’s grocery stores. 

Tvenge said the city council will “do anything we can” to mitigate the impact on local businesses that will result from the mandated closure of restaurants, bars and places of entertainment that took effect Wednesday at 5 p.m.

“The message here is we all need to stay together as a community. We all need to make efforts to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” he said. “We are proud to say it’s not in Kodiak right now. However, those chances are still there. We could become a community with the infection.”

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