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'Open Doesn't Mean Over:' Unalaska Continues Health Mandates, Removes Exception For 'Day Travelers'

Berett Wilber


The Unalaska City Council adopted a new local COVID-19 mandate at its meeting June 9. The order is the same as the prior local order, except that it removed the quarantine exception for ferry day travelers and instituted penalty provisions for failing to adhere to mandate guidelines.

"I do recommend that council delete section 5D, which would result in the requiring of passengers on the Alaska Marine Highway System to follow our local quarantine requirements," said City Manager Erin Reinders. "This would prevent them from coming into our community on the ferry."

Ahead of the first M/V Tustumena sailing of the season earlier this month, councilors carved outan exception to Unalaska's local 14-day quarantine order for day trippers. This was to allow passengers from neighboring communities to meet critical personal needs, including visiting Unalaska's grocery stores and clinic for health care purposes.

But following the arrival of the ferry on June 6 — when an Alaska Marine Highway System employeetested positive for COVID-19— many community members became concerned about day travelers entering the community.

Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. said the exception was originally put in for passengers from Akutan.

"It wasn't until the day of the ferry's arrival that I heard that they passed a mandate [in Akutan] that if you take one step on the ferry then you're going to 14-day quarantine on your return. And that discouraged a lot of people from coming over from Akutan," said Tutiakoff. "So I'm in favor of this. I tried to help them and they went ahead and took care of their own problem, so we'll take care of our own here."

Councilors voted unanimously to remove the quarantine exception for AMHS day travelers at Tuesday's meeting. But community members are still expected to  follow state and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandates and guidelines, including limiting the number of contacts and activities outside of their homes, adhering to social distancing guidelines, and wearing face coverings, to name a few.

The City Council will reevaluate its local health mandate at its meeting on June 23. 

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