Alaska has entered phase one of reopening areas of the economy and society. Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued his 16th health mandate on April 22, which allows most businesses to open under strict health and safety conditions beginning today, April 24.
The mandate is the first in a series of phases expected to roll out over the next several weeks. Each phase is dependent on whether the state’s hospital capacity and medical system is sufficiently equipped to continue caring for all incoming patients.
The new mandate applies to most retail outlets, restaurants, public facing businesses, personal care services and non-public facing businesses. Each category has specific health and safety conditions that must be met in order to operate legally. Bars, bowling allies and theaters remain closed for now.
“Alaska businesses are going to rise to the occasion,” Dunleavy said.
While the mandate applies statewide, the governor said certain cities and communities may choose to ease restrictions more gradually than others. Anchorage, for example, will not reopen under the state’s phase one until Monday, April 27.
Dunleavy said he anticipates that Alaska’s low number of COVID-19 cases will likely tick up as the economy reopens but he emphasized that the goal was to ensure the continued ability to care for ill Alaskans. With a current abundance of hospital beds, medical supplies and equipment, as well increased capacity to test and track outbreaks, the governor’s team feels confident in incrementally opening the state.
“You will see the numbers go up,” he said at the April 22 press conference. “But again, I think we will be in good shape.”
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In terms of medical capacity and equipment, Alaska has 919 available inpatient beds, 123 available ICU beds and 312 available ventilators. Statewide, there have been 36 hospitalized COVID-19 patents. As of April 23, there have been 337 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 209 of those now recovered.
“With regard to opening up the businesses, I have a lot of faith in the businesses folks here in Alaska,” Dunleavy said. “They’ve invested a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of money, a lot of emotion in their businesses, and this pandemic has taken a toll on all of that. It’s taken a toll on our society.”
Dunleavy said the state is already working on phase two, which could go into effect in early May depending on how phase one impacts the state’s medical system.
“Alaskans are going to rise to the occasion,” he said. “Alaska businesses are going to rise to the occasion.”