JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Nonresident travelers to Alaska will need to show they tested negative for COVID-19 shortly before arriving as part of an effort aimed at minimizing cases and preserving testing supplies and protective gear, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said.
“We’re not trying to make this difficult for folks to come here,” Dunleavy said during a Tuesday evening news conference. “We just want to make sure that we are taking care of Alaskans first.”
The changes take effect Aug. 11 and will require nonresidents arrive with negative results from a test taken 72 hours before arrival. Dunleavy said enforcement details are being worked out.
Currently, travelers have several testing options, including taking a test within three to five days of leaving for Alaska and being tested at an airport location when they arrive in Alaska. Those opting not to test can quarantine for 14 days. Under quarantine, one is to leave their location only for medical emergencies or necessary medical care.
Dunleavy indicated quarantine would no longer be an option for nonresident travelers under the new protocols.
“We feel it’s best to just go straight to a testing approach that requires folks coming in to have a negative,” he said. “So, if you come to Alaska, you should have a negative.”
Some people will say this is a burden or problematic, he said.
“There’s no doubt that every aspect of our lives is going to be impacted by this virus, including travel,” Dunleavy said.
Alaska residents still can be tested at airports, he said.
Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said there has been a “rapid increase” in new cases among residents and nonresidents. Travel does not appear to be the main driver of the recent increase in cases among Alaska residents, according to a slide she presented Tuesday.
Many of the new resident cases are among those in their 20s, with cases among residents in their 20s and 30s up, according to the slide.
Zink urged residents to avoid large gatherings, particularly those indoors; to wear face coverings in public, particularly when near others; and to wash their hands as a way to slow the virus’ spread.
The state has reported nearly 2,800 cases of COVID-19 involving residents and 645 involving nonresidents. It also has reported 22 COVID-19-related deaths.
The Municipality of Anchorage said Wednesday it was opening five additional testing sites. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz recently imposed limits on gathering sizes and the number of people allowed in bars, restaurants and entertainment venues in response to rising coronavirus cases there.
Bill Falsey, incident commander at the municipal emergency operations center, in a release said increased testing capacity “leads to quicker identification of cases and more effective disease containment.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.