Reopening of state economy begins

Non-essential Cordova businesses told to remain closed until May 20

Restaurants, shops and hair salons around Alaska are beginning a cautious reopening under strict state mandates as Alaska works to inhibit the spread of COVID-19, while the economic reopening remains on hold in Cordova.

Emergency order 2020-05, issued by City Manager Helen Howarth, reinstates business restrictions lifted by the state on April 24 until May 20.

Independent commercial fishermen meanwhile now have their COVID-19 marching orders from state officials, a list of protective measures, procedures, travel and access measures they must abide by, as the influx of seafood workers begins in Cordova.

Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin said Sunday, April 26 that the opening date for non-essential businesses could change to be earlier or later than May 20, depending on the impact of the pandemic on the city. To date there have been no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus documented here.

State health officials said on Monday, April 27, that four new cases of COVID-19 infection have brought the total number of infections statewide to 345. They include two in Anchorage, one in Eagle River and one in Wasilla. The number of active cases stands at 118. Another 118 people have recovered, a total of 37 people have been hospitalized, and nine have died.

State Health Mandate 17, issued on Thursday, April 23, requires that vessel captains maintain a ship’s log which includes information certifying that crew members were screened upon arrival and their temperatures taken, and that arriving crew proceed directly to the vessel or designated self-quarantine location.

The city council’s latest emergency order is at covid19.cityofcordova.net.

A list of all state mandates is online at covid19.alaska.gov.

Koplin said he has been focused on processor workers and harvesters arriving in advance of the Copper River salmon fishing opener in mid-May, to be sure all resources and guidelines are in place to keep the community safe. People coming from out of town, especially where the virus has had a big impact, are taking it more seriously than people in Cordova, Koplin said.

Cathy Renfeldt, executive director for the Cordova Chamber of Commerce, said response to the city’s newest emergency order, restricting non-essential businesses from opening through May 20, has been mixed.

“Some businesses were ready to open on Friday, until they heard from the city that that was not a possibility,” she said. “There was some confusion. Business owners are really stressed out. We have a larger than normal percentage of small businesses who have put their heart and soul into this.”

Small businesses are finding that federal economic relief efforts in particular are not very easy to negotiate; sometimes it takes weeks to hear back and sometimes they don’t hear back at all, Renfeldt said. The federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection funds have run out, and chambers of commerce, which are trying to support these local businesses, are left out in the cold for federal financial aid.

Cordova families have experienced a lot of stress, as their children can’t play with friends, and parents have had to take on the tasks of school at home. Several in the community have responded with outreach for counseling, Renfeldt said. There is also now an online evening story hour for youngsters, Current Rhythms has online yoga classes and the Morning Music program is working to get online too.

Meanwhile the Cordova Chamber of Commerce is starting to think about recovery plans for the community, she said. Information is online for the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival, normally an economic boost for the city.

“We are just trying to hang on and rebuild,” Renfeldt said.

The same concern is being felt nationally and worldwide, as governments everywhere weigh the cost of the pandemic to human health and their economies.

On a global scale the number of confirmed cases reached over 3 million, with 211,609 deaths and 922,397 recovered. In the United States alone there were 1,020,507 people infected of which 138,990 had recovered, while over 56,800 have died.