The Unalaska City Council voted unanimously to extend the city's declaration of a local emergency during its meeting last Tuesday. The declaration will expire at the end of June next year.
"With the start of 'A' season, with flu season underway, with hospital beds and use on the rise, with cases on the rise — I think there are plenty of rational reasons why we would want to go to that June 30 deadline," said City Manager Erin Reinders. "It'll [help] keep it on everyone's radar that this is for the long haul and we all need to remain diligent in our efforts."
Reinders said she hopes by then, a COVID-19 vaccine will be readily available and that the pandemic will be more under control.
Clinic Director Melanee Tiura echoed Reinders' advocacy for the June timeline.
"This is anyone's best prediction as to how long this is going to be at its peak," she said. "To get us past 'A' season and get some normalcy after that point is a priority for us. I think June is a very reasonable estimate."
The city's previous declaration of emergency passed by councilors on March 18 was tied to the state's disaster declaration, which expired at midnight on Sunday.
Reinders said the local declaration can be revisited moving forward.
City councilors also voted unanimously to continue measures to protect public health. Those include a requirement that patrons of businesses wear a face covering over their nose and mouth, that businesses and organizations open to the public post COVID-19 mitigation measures on entrances and exits, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anybody traveling to the island, whether by air or sea.
The resolution further clarifies exceptions for workers considered part of the critical workforce.
"[The resolution] does have some changes, to help adapt to the change of the state's declaration of emergency," said Reinders. "Most notably, you'll see that the resolution now includes definitions for critical workforce, for essential services, and for critical infrastructure as the state defines them."
Part of the city's reasoning for including a lengthy definition for essential and critical workforce industries and entities was to allow the city's resolution to "divorce from the state," and stand alone if or when the state's mandate expires.
"I do really want to clarify that this resolution has been developed so that it does stand alone, even if and when the state declaration goes away," Reinders said. "We really have taken great strides in making it so that it really does stand alone, separate from any state action."
Following the city's first confirmed case of community spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday — which the city confirmed was an employee of ACE Air Cargo who had no history of recent travel — Unalaska's multi-agency Emergency Operations Center chose to stay at a medium coronavirus risk level, marking a change from previous protocol.
Reinders said if the city's risk assessment rises to "high," councilors might consider implementing additional protective measures such as a hunker down order and closure of businesses.