The City of Unalaska has decided to expand its local 14-day quarantine requirement to allow individuals to recreate. The new order went into effect Wednesday.
Under the city's previous health order, anyone traveling by vessel or airplane into Unalaska was mandated to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and monitor for symptoms of illness without leaving their quarantine location. The mandate did not allow for people to hike, go to the beach, or fish.
But as summer approaches, the Unalaska City Council voted unanimously to loosen guidelines at its meeting on Tuesday. Councilors chose to allow anyone under self-quarantine to leave their designated quarantine location for medical emergencies or to seek medical care, to travel in their personal vehicle or vessel, and to participate in outdoor recreational activities individually or with members of their household, so long as they go directly from the quarantine location to the recreational activity and back, having no contact with persons outside their household.
"I just wanted to remind everybody the reason for the 14 days," said Melanee Tiura, CEO of Iliuliuk Family and Health Services. "That strategy includes three to five days after exposure sometimes needed to develop symptoms or to at least have enough of the viral load to test positive and effectively become contagious. And then contagion lasts for about 10 days. So that's where that 14 days comes from."
While Tiura said the 14-day quarantine is inconvenient, clinic staff believe it's working. She said the state's travel mandate — which requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test or that travelers self-quarantine for two weeks — only addresses those travelers coming into Alaska from out-of-state, and does not apply to anyone traveling within the state. It's important to note the increase in spread in Alaska is mostly amongst people who live here, according to Tiura, so spreading the virus from one community to another is very likely at this point.
"We think the 14-days right now, while we're in 'B' season and seeing a population influx, and with the reopening of Alaska and an increase of community spread, we think it would be a bad time to lift that restriction," she said. "We all acknowledge that this isn't going to last forever, but we're trying to continue to flatten the curve at a vulnerable point for us."
Unalaska's 14-day quarantine doesn't apply to critical infrastructure, as long as employers have filed the required protocol with the city. All workers under the critical workforce exception are required to self-quarantine during non-work hours within their first two weeks on the island.
Tiura said IFHS currently has the capacity to test over 1000 people, and that she will be putting in another request to the state for more COVID-19 testing kits next week. The clinic is currently testing approximately 150 people per week.