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Local coronavirus risk factor drops to ‘moderate,’ city officials maintain mask mandate

As of Tuesday, the city reported there were 17 active community-acquired cases of COVID-19 — down from its recent peak of 30.

The Unalaska City Council voted Tuesday to keep the island’s current mask mandate in place.

Over the past month, the city has experienced its largest surge of community-acquired COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, and city councilors remain cautious as hospitals in Anchorage near capacity.

“The mask mandates do help, but I don’t feel like we should go any further than that,” said council member Daneen Looby at Tuesday’s special meeting. “I think we need to learn how to live with this and move forward, but masks don't hurt anybody. They're uncomfortable, we all don't like them — I'm right with everybody there. But I do think it's helped slow the spread down.”

As of Tuesday, the city reported there were 17 active community-acquired cases of COVID-19 — down from its recent peak of 30.

In response, the local risk factor dropped to “moderate” per the city’s updated COVID-19 response plan, which went into effect on Sept. 1.

The new plan outlines four different risk levels — low, moderate, substantial and high — as opposed to the old plan which only had three levels. The levels are based on the number of active cases that have been reported in the community.

The updated plan also recommends corresponding guidance for protective measures to limit the spread of the virus, like getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and wearing face coverings while inside public spaces.

Despite the recent decrease from last week’s peak in community cases, Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. said it’s not time to let our guard down.

“We were very uncomfortable when we had 10 [cases],” he said. “And now [we] seem to be more relaxed and understanding. I know it's been a long time, but we're not through this yet. If anything, it’s going to get worse — the nation is overwhelmed, the hospitals in Anchorage are getting overwhelmed.”

Meanwhile, the clinic is no longer performing contact tracing, according to Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic CEO Melanee Tiura. Instead, it is being performed exclusively by state public health workers.

“I will say that people are still waiting quite a bit to get contact tracing done through the state,” she said.

IFHS clinic and Aleutian Pribilof Island Association staff are giving guidance to locals who test positive, Tiura added. That process includes helping people identify their close contacts and encouraging them to reach out.

City councilors will revisit local public health measures at their regular meeting on Sept. 14.

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