A growing list of governmental, non-profit and private business facilities have announced temporary closures of various lengths in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, which through mid-March was confirmed to have infected only one foreign commercial pilot.
The list ranges from a two-week closure of Alaska public schools to public libraries, public event centers and non-profit facilities like the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, which will remain closed through March 31, and the Capitol building in Juneau, where public access for now will be via written and telephonic testimony, as legislators push to get a state budget passed.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy also suspended any visitations to Department of Corrections facilities, Division of Juvenile Justice facilities, the Alaska Military Youth Academy and Alaska Psychiatric Institute, and limited visitation to Alaska Pioneer Homes.
Officials with the Alaska SeaLife Center said their essential staff, including facilities, veterinary and animal care teams would be reporting to work as usual to provide vital care to their animals, and that the ASLC planned to offer a variety of virtual programming to keep the public engaged with its exhibits and animals.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issued an emergency order prohibiting dine-in service at the city’s restaurants, bars and breweries, effective at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 16, extending through March 31. The mayor’s order applies to all entertainment facilities including theaters, gyms and bingo halls, all of which are to remain closed through March 31.
The mayor said closures were consistent with Centers for Disease Control recommendations and with the city’s strategy to reduce the possibility of transmitting COVID-19.
The city’s emergency order includes a ban on all events and mass gatherings with 50 people or more through March 31. Police and fire services were not affected.
Starbucks stores in Anchorage went to instore grab and go only or drive-in window service and ordered texted to the store.
Cordova District Fishermen United has closed its office to foot traffic. Executive director Chelsea Haisman said CDFU would continue work as usual, albeit with its staff not at the office., and would reopen the office when schools reopen.
United Fishermen of Alaska announced closure of its offices in Juneau for an indefinite period.
ComFish, the annual fisheries forum and trade show at Kodiak, was postponed from March 25-27 to Sept. 17-19, and the April meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage, one of five sessions held annually by the council, was cancelled.
Organizers of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the only major sports event in the nation currently underway, cancelled its popular Meet the Mushers event on March 21 and its awards banquet on March 22 in Nome, and urged fans of the race not to come to Nome to cheer the mushers arriving after days on the trail from the Matanuska Valley outside of Anchorage.
The national recreational equipment cooperative REI said it was closing all of its stores, including one in Anchorage, through March 27, and Starbucks’ national office announced plans to shift to “to go” orders at some locations for at least two weeks, but did not specify its plans for Alaska.
Four major cruise operators also voluntarily agreed on Friday, March 13, to suspend cruise ship operations from all U.S. ports, including Alaska, for 30 days. The Cruise Lines International Association confirmed the voluntary suspension of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC cruise ships.
“During this time, we will continue to work with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and others to prepare for resumption of sailings when it is appropriate,” said Adam Goldstein, CLIA global chairman. “We know the travel industry is a huge economic engine for the United States and when our ships once again sail, our industry will be a significant contributor to fueling the economic recovery.”
According to CLIA, the U.S. cruise industry supports some 420,000 jobs and generates about $50 billion in economic activity.
Meanwhile Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Celestyal Cruises, Windstar and Virgin Voyages separately announced interruptions in their cruise operations due to the coronavirus outbreak, adding to previous announcements from Viking and Princess Cruises. Small businesses in Alaska who were already geared up with supplies in anticipation of a robust visitor season were expressing concern over the potential adverse economic impact from the lack of cruise ship visitors.
This is a developing story. Check thecordovatimes.com for updates throughout the week.
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