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City Moves To High Coronavirus Risk Level After Confirming Three New Cases Of Community Spread

Hope McKenney/KUCB

Unalaska's city-run facilities — including the public library and swimming pool — will temporarily close beginning Friday. That's after city officials raised Unalaska's coronavirus alert level back to "high" after three more people tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday.

The individuals who recently tested positive are linked to four cases reported by the citythe previous day. With no recent travel or known contacts with infected people, those cases are considered community spread. 

City Manager Erin Reinders says that means there's heightened risk of exposure to the community at large.

"We were hoping yesterday's cases were isolated," she said. "But now, we've found additional cases, and it's no longer isolated, and so we've had to go ahead and raise our risk level."

Clinic personnel are in the process of identifying close contacts of the three new cases and offering testing. Reinders says the city-run facilities will have to seal their doors as a precaution.

"We are not going to be as open as we have been, but we are looking at ways that we can still provide service," she said. "It looks like we're putting together plans for curbside library pick up starting Monday, and PCR staff is putting together plans to allow for extremely limited access to both the Community Center and the Aquatics Center." 

The city had lowered its local risk level to "medium" at the end of December, following two weeks without a COVID-19 case stemming from community spread. The city remained at that lower threshold for just over a week.

"If you look at statewide and national numbers, when things close down, then the number of positive cases will fall," Reinders said. "And then that gets us to that zone where we can open things back up again. And then we do that, and then people will mix and mingle, and then numbers start rising. The goal here is that we don't create these spikes." 

Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson urged Unalaskans to follow local protective measures and federal guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. 

"People need to take responsibility and quarantine, and follow the guidelines that the city puts out in these emergency orders," said Robinson. "Wear your mask, social distance, and, by God, just help be a productive community member to fight this virus. It needs to happen. So everybody has to work together. When we don't, we fall apart and we will end up being shut down, opened back up, and shut down again. Nobody wants that."

The City Council is planning to hold a special meeting Friday at noon to discuss implementing additional measures to protect public health. Information on how to participate in the meeting can be found here

The city will consider stepping back down to the medium risk level once two weeks go by without a new COVID-19 case stemming from community spread, Reinders added.

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