Cordova readies for arrival of virus

City: Stores will remain stocked; cannery workers will be screened before arrival

A school closure extending to March 30 was ordered by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (March 13, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Schools, businesses and city departments have drawn up plans to respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

March 16, Mayor Clay Koplin declared a state of emergency effective through March 23. This allows the city to access resources to respond to emerging circumstances, he said.

“When we declare a state of emergency, it doesn’t mean, ‘Oh my God, the sky is falling!’” said City Manager Helen Howarth at a March 16 public meeting. “It means we are preparing … to maneuver around this coronavirus in a way that keeps the community safe.”

COVID-19 testing

Testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has been performed in Cordova, according to a release by the COVID-19 Response Group. However, as of Tuesday, March 17, no cases of the disease in Cordova have been confirmed. The COVID-19 Response Group is a body consisting of representatives from Cordova Community Medical Center, Ilanka Community Health Center, the city of Cordova and City of Cordova Emergency Management, as well as health care professionals.

Testing by nasal swab is available at CCMC and Ilanka Community Health Center, according to a COVID-19 Response Group release. However, patients are requested to call ahead before coming to either facility for testing. Ilanka Community Health Center has opened a clinic for patients with respiratory symptoms, said Emergency Management Coordinator Heather Brannon at a March 16 public meeting. CCMC has set up an extra room in its ambulance bay to accommodate patients outside of triage areas, she said. CCMC and Ilanka Community Health Center have enacted similar response plans, she said.

Cordova has mainly been spared the panic buying that has plagued grocery stores elsewhere in the U.S. Although retailers like AC Value Center have run low on hand sanitizer, other staples, including toilet paper, have remained stocked. Local store owners are confident that shelves will remain stocked for at least the next six months, Howarth said.

As the fishing season resumes, cannery workers will be screened for the coronavirus before departing Seattle, Howarth said.

Cordova has remained relatively free of the panic buying that has emptied supermarket shelves in other communities. (March 16, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Restaurants closed

All food and drink establishments in Alaska have been mandated by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to shut down dine-in services.  The ban, extending from 5 p.m. March 18 to 5 p.m. April 1, applies to restaurants, bars, breweries, food trucks and other similar establishments.  A March 17 announcement issued by the governor encouraged businesses to offer delivery service, drive-through service and walk-up service.

The ban does not apply to stores and other places offering food for consumption elsewhere.  It also does not apply to soup kitchens, to employee cafeterias without self-service buffets, or to restaurants inside the secured zones of airports.

All performances at the North Star Theatre have been canceled or postponed by organizers, officials said. (March 18, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Closure of public buildings

Public facilities, including Cordova Public Library, Cordova Historical Museum, Bidarki Recreation Center and Bob Korn Memorial Pool, will be closed until at least March 30. These closures correspond to a March 16-30 school closure ordered by the governor. The Cordova Legislative Information Office was also closed as of Tuesday, March 17.

As of Tuesday, March 17, the Cordova School District had not announced a suspension of classes beyond the March 16-30 closure mandated by the governor’s office. However, the school district has suspended district-sponsored travel for students and staff, according to a March 13 release. All sporting events, co-curricular events and after-school activities will be reviewed, according to the release.

Though city hall will remain open, all face-to-face meetings at city hall that are not “absolutely necessary” are cancelled, according to a March 17 release authorized by the city of Cordova and other community organizations. However, emergency management and public safety meetings, and meetings of Cordova City Council, have not been cancelled. All events scheduled at the North Star Theatre have been canceled by organizers, officials said.

CCMC’s Senior Lunch Program has also been suspended indefinitely, according to the March 17 release. However, CCMC is continuing to provide home-delivered lunches. Seniors normally participating in CCMC’s congregate lunch program will be able to receive a take-out meal on weekdays between noon-12:30 p.m. These meals will be delivered to seniors’ vehicles by staff, according to the release. Visits to long-term residents at CCMC will have to be made by phone, Internet or other remote means.