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Unalaska City Council Extends Emergency Declaration

Laura Kraegel

The Unalaska City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to extend the city's local emergency declaration through the end of the year, continuing the city's current precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

Melanee Tiura, CEO at Iliuliuk Family and Health Services, said that the main purpose of extending the emergency declaration was to keep the city's isolation and quarantine facility in operation, which opened at the start of the pandemic as a place for seasonal workers to quarantine if they were exposed to the coronavirus.

"Predominantly, the reason for extending this is for the isolation site," Tiura said. "It really doesn't have a significant impact on any of our other activities."

Assistant city manager J.R. Pearson told the council that "local processors are bringing in employees from all over the world, and they requested that we keep the isolation site open."

The emergency declaration also authorizes the city manager to "take necessary actions to reduce the impact and spread of the coronavirus," such as allowing participants at City Council meetings to participate by telephone.

"We are also going to continue greeting passengers at the airport, as we have been doing, mainly for contact tracing," Pearson added.

Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. said that contact tracing at the airport was particularly important for maintaining the community's health because of the large number of charter flights bringing people onto the island.

In another unanimous vote, the council agreed to continue encouraging, but not requiring, protective measures against spreading COVID-19. Unalaska's coronavirus risk remains low, but the City Council still recommends following the State of Alaska's health advisories, such as self-quarantining after travel and mask-wearing, due to the influx of visitors while the fishing industry's B-Season is underway.

Councilman Dennis Robinson said that he was encouraged to see how many people opted to still wear masks inside stores, and that the development of new variants posed unknown risks.

"I enjoy wearing my mask out in public because I haven't had a cold in a year and a half," Robinson added. "I think I'm gonna keep it that way."

Unalaska's emergency declaration is set to expire on Dec. 31.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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