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The Kodiak Emergency Services Council issued a “hunker down” proclamation Monday afternoon, instructing Kodiak residents to remain in their homes “as much as possible” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The order, which comes even as Kodiak remains free of confirmed COVID-19 cases, will take effect Tuesday at 10 p.m. and will remain in effect until April 1 at 10 p.m.
According to the order, residents should only leave home to work in essential jobs; to buy, sell or deliver groceries; to receive or provide health care; and to get fresh air without contacting others. When people leave their homes, they should maintain a social distance of 6 feet between each other.
Essential businesses include health care, critical infrastructure, grocery stores, defense, fishing and other operations.
Emergency Services Director Mike Tvenge said the proclamation follows Kodiak’s new status quo, and does not constitute a mandate. Rather, it encourages community members to take steps that they are already taking, he said.
“We’re waiting until the situation changes in Kodiak. We don’t have a case yet. I don’t know if waiting until we have cases is the logical choice, but we’re waiting on some triggers that will be evaluated day-to-day,” Tvenge said. “We still want to maintain a certain state of normalcy.”
Kodiak’s proclamation follows in the footsteps of similar or stricter proclamations made in Anchorage, Ketchikan and Juneau — all communities that have already seen one or more cases of COVID-19.
However, the proclamation exempts individuals experiencing homelessness from the recommendation to remain home. The Brother Francis Shelter, which provides housing for homeless individuals in Kodiak, is only open during night hours. While the Emergency Services Council is working on a solution to provide full-day housing for homeless individuals, the housing won’t become available until Wednesday at the earliest, according to Tvenge.
Tvenge said the council has received approval to use the Kodiak Armory, which is typically used by the National Guard, as a temporary housing location for people experiencing homelessness. The facility is large enough to house all 15 individuals who currently need shelter, he said, adding that it also has space to quarantine individuals who may present with symptoms of the virus or test positive for COVID-19.
However, the state denied a request from the council for personnel to help run and secure the facility. The council is now waiting on confirmation of assistance from Brother Francis, and is hoping the 24-hour facility can be operated by three staff members from Brother Francis.
The Kodiak Brother Francis shelter was not available for comment Monday evening.
Kodiak Women’s Resource Center Executive Director Rebecca Shields said the “hunker down” order could lead to increased domestic violence in Kodiak.
“This is a highly stressful time. So many things are coming apart all at once — people are losing their jobs, their incomes, people are scared about their health. For people in high-risk situations quarantined with people who are abusive, it’s a perfect storm. We expect that there are people out there that will need safety,” Shields said, urging the council to act quickly to ensure that Kodiak’s vulnerable populations are not left in the cold when the virus hits the community.
Shields said that despite the risk of virus spread, the resource and crisis center will remain open.
“We recognize that the need is out there and we want to answer that need regardless,” she said. “If you’re well, we’ll keep you in shelter, and if you’re not well, we will find a safe place. We are definitely still doing what we do.”
Despite requests from some community members to limit air traffic to Kodiak and even close the Kodiak Airport, Tvenge said the council is not empowered to make a decision about closing or limiting activity at the airport, which is owned and operated by the Alaska Department of Transportation. Tvenge said any decision about limiting traffic to Kodiak would have to be made at the state level.
“The public has a big role in this. We can’t martial everybody around,” Tvenge said. “The proclamation talks about ‘do what we’ve been doing’ and that’s what’s keeping us at zero (cases) right now. The risk is always there because people are still traveling, and traveling is a means of getting infected, but we can’t stop wholly our commerce. I just hope people continue taking the measures we’ve been doing to keep us safe.”
The text of the proclamation is as follows:
The Emergency Services Council does hereby order the following emergency response to preserve life within the communities of Kodiak island. The following emergency regulations begin at 10 pm on March 24, 2020 and remain in effect until 10 pm on April 1, 2020 at which time these emergency regulations will be reevaluated.
1. Kodiak residents shall stay at home as much as possible, except to work in certain essential jobs, listed below: to buy, sell, or deliver groceries or other important goods, to receive or provide health care and to get fresh air without contacting others. On the limited occasions when individuals leave home, they should maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any person outside their household whenever possible. Individuals are also encouraged to practice recommended hygiene, including regular hand washing.
Individuals experiencing homelessness are exempt from this Section, but are strongly urged to obtain shelter, and entities are strongly urged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extent practicable (and to use COVID-19 risk mitigation practices in their operation).
2.. It is strongly recommended, in accordance with Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, that certain individuals within the Kodiak community should take even greater precaution.
Anyone particularly at-risk from COVID-19 should reduce exposure by staying at home, not physically going to work, and not doing their own shopping if possible. People particularly at risk, of complications from COVID-19 include those 60 years and older and individuals of any age with a serious underlying medical condition. Household members of those who are at elevated risk should implement these more stringent guidelines as well, to the extent possible.
Anyone more likely to be contagious with COVID-19 should reduce contact with others even further by not leaving home except to obtain medical care or to get fresh air. People who are more likely to be contagious include individuals exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (including coughing, shortness of breath, and fever) and individuals who have recently traveled. Individuals who have recently travelled off island are advised, in accordance with CDC guidelines, to stay at home as much as possible for fourteen days. Household members of those who are possible contagious should implement these more stringent guidelines as well, to the extent possible.
3. Some businesses and entities serve essential roles that are necessary to combat this public health emergency or provide essential community functions and cannot be put on hold while we address the emergency. These businesses and entities are encouraged to remain open. While open, those businesses and entities should comply with social distancing guidelines as much as possible, including by maintaining six-foot social distancing for employees and for members of the public, including when any customers are standing in line. A list of businesses defined as essential is listed below at paragraph number five.
4. All other businesses and entities of Kodiak must close their premises; however, businesses and entities may continue to utilize telecommuting or work from home procedures.
5. Essential businesses (to include non-profit and other entities) include:
a. “Healthcare Operations including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, other healthcare facilities, home healthcare services and providers, mental health providers, companies and institutions involved in the research and development, manufacture, distribution, warehousing, and supplying of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology therapies, consumer health products, medical devices, diagnostics, equipment, services, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. "Healthcare Operations" also includes veterinary care and healthcare services provided to animals. "Healthcare Operations" does not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities. Healthcare operations remain subject to the restrictions in the Emergency Services Command's Proclamation. To expand the capacity and supply of Healthcare operations necessary for the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Healthcare Operators shall postpone appointments that re non-urgent or nonemergency whenever possible, and consider alternatives to face-to-face visits, in accordance with CDC guidance for Healthcare Facilities.
b. Businesses providing any services or performing any work necessary to the operations and maintenance of "Critical Infrastructure," including but not limited to, the Port of Kodiak, public works construction, construction of housing, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical oil production, roads and highways, trucking and shipping companies, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems;
c. First responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, and law enforcement personnel;
d. Critical Government Functions, meaning all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies and provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Federal, State of Alaska, and local government provide for the health, safety employees should follow direction of their employer regarding whether and where to report to work;
e. Defense and national security-related operations supporting the U.S. Government or a contractor to the U.S. government;
f. Grocery stores, supermarkets, food banks, marijuana dispensaries, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of food, beverages, or other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products, pet food and pet supplies). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, as well as stores that sell products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and operation of residences;
g. Food cultivation, including fishing, hunting, farming, and livestock;
h. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged, unsheltered, or otherwise vulnerable individuals;
i. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
j. Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, towing companies, and related facilities;
k. Banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, and related financial institutions;
l. Hardware stores;
m. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and operation of residences and essential businesses;
n. Businesses providing mailing and shipping services;
o. Educational institutions for purpose of facilitating distance learning;
p. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
q. Restaurants, bars, and breweries and other facilities that prepare and serve food and beverages, but only for delivery or carry out under the restrictions laid out in the Governor's COVID-19 Health Mandate 3.1;
r. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
s. Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
t. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences;
u. Businesses that provide transportation services of passengers or goods;
v. Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;
w. Hotels, residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children;
x. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities
y. Childcare facilities, subject to new recommendation for increase hygiene and social distancing. Childcare facilities should be used only by those who need childcare to work at an essential job.
If your business is not listed above, but you believe that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request an opinion from the Emergency Services Director that your business should be designated an essential business.
This is a developing story.