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Unalaska City Council Ratifies Mayor's Declaration Of Public Health Emergency

Berett Wilber

The City Council ratified Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr.'s declaration of a local emergency for Unalaska at a special council meeting Wednesday night.

City Manager Erin Reinders said the resolution declaring a public health emergency will allow her to take necessary actions to reduce the impact and spread of the coronavirus throughout the City of Unalaska.

"The reason for this declaration is not only so that we might qualify for potential funding in the future, but also so that we can respond effectively and quickly as this situation unfolds," said Reinders during the council meeting, which was held via telephone conference call. 

While Reinders said the financial implications of the evolving coronavirus situation are unknown, the city will be tracking the costs associated with its response efforts.

Meanwhile, Iliuliuk Family and Health Services (IFHS) has instituted a new policy. Clinic Director Melanee Tiura said that, for the safety of the community, patients must call ahead to ensure those who don't have symptoms aren't exposed to additional germs.

"With this change that we made today, we will have a reduction in our revenue because of it," said Tiura. "And so emergency [funding] requests may come forward in the near future as we look at the impacts that this is going to have on our organization. But we need to preserve the life-saving treatment for those who need it, and we need to make sure that those who don't have symptoms at this point stay that way."

Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared a public health emergency in the State of Alaska, followed by a declaration of a National Emergency by President Donald Trump. 

As of Thursday morning, there are nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state. There are no confirmed cases in Unalaska.

The city's resolution will remain in effect until the governor and president terminate their emergency declarations. After that, the Unalaska City Council will have the opportunity to extend the declaration.

The last time council declared a state of emergency was in October, following a fatal plane crash on the island.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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