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City Council Passes 'Hunker Down' Order For Unalaska After Potential Widespread Exposure To COVID-19

Berett Wilber

A 'hunker down' order went into effect Wednesday at noon, requiring everyone in Unalaska to avoid going into public for the next two weeks. It also orders restaurants and bars close to dine-in service and bans gatherings of more than 20 people.

The City of Unalaska raised the local COVID-19 risk factor to "high" on Monday. That's in light of two cases of community spread and "potential widespread exposure" to the virus.

The city adopted the 'hunker down' order unanimously at a special meeting Tuesday night.

The city's order requires people to stay at home as much as possible, except to go to work or school when there's no alternative. Residents are still allowed to obtain essentials, like groceries, medication and other goods, and, of course, obtain medical care or even take a walk, provided they are not in contact with others outside their household.

These are necessary precautions, according to City Manager Erin Reinders.

"What might be on many people's minds at this point is how long do we remain at this high risk level?" Reinders said. "And the key thing to remember is that no one wants to be here forever. So according to our risk thresholds, once there are two weeks of no additional confirmed community spread cases in Unalaska, we can then make the consideration to step back down to the medium risk threshold."

Violators can be fined up to $500.

Police Chief Jay King said at the meeting that if someone is issued a public nuisance citation, they would be required to answer the charges in court.   

"The nuisance ordinance has been in place for the previous resolutions that were passed, and we do have the capabilities of issuing a citation to the person who violated quarantine," King said.

Contact tracing has concluded for Monday's cases, according to Clinic Director Melanee Tiura. She said the 15 people identified as close contacts were provided with the information that they need to quarantine for two weeks from the time of exposure and were offered testing. But, she said that an unspecified number opted out of being tested for COVID-19.

"It is certainly up to the individual who was the direct contact as to whether or not they choose to be tested," Tiura said. 

Tuesday night's resolution continued existing protective measures, including the 14-day quarantine requirement, wearing face coverings and a requirement for businesses to post their COVID mitigation plans on entrances and exits.

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