Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is doubling down on his so-called “slow but steady” approached to gradually reopening Anchorage’s economy, churches and other entities. Despite the fact the Gov. Mike Dunleavy lifted nearly all state health mandates on May 22, Berkowitz has chosen to keep Alaska’s largest city under more strict health orders.
He did announce, however, that Anchorage will ease COVID-19 restrictions beginning Monday, May 25, to permit businesses and other entities to operate at 100% capacity. That allowance will require compliance with his emergency orders mandating face masks, social distancing and hygiene protocols. The orders will be published soon on the municipality’s website.
“We have to maintain our vigilance,” Berkowitz said during a May 22 press conference. “Our strategy to coping with the COVID-19 pandemic is to be slow and steady.”
For now, businesses and restaurants continue to enjoy greater liberties than religious groups.
Unlike the state’s approach, Berkowitz will impose “rules” rather than suggest guidelines for Alaskans, as the governor has done.
“Having rules in place, as opposed to simple guidelines protects businesses and allows them to make decisions moving forward,” Berkowitz claimed. “It protects businesses more vigorously than the state’s approach does.”
Berkowitz maintains that by implementing enforceable rules, customers will feel more comfortable shopping or dining out.
“It affords the customer base assurances that the businesses are taking care of them,” Berkowitz stated. “It assures the workers and the workforce that businesses are taking care of them. Having those rules in place helps generate confidence in the market.” He also claimed rules give businesses cover if people try to sue them.
For now, however, churches, businesses and other groups will remain under tighter mandates. Until May 25 churches cannot hold gatherings of more than 50 people without breaking the mayor’s rules. Businesses and restaurants enjoy greater liberties than religious groups, but are only allowed to operate at limited capacities.
Berkowitz said there will be no public celebration of Memorial Day “out of an abundance of caution.”
Berkowitz admitted that Anchorage is under no duress with regards to hospital capacity, personal protection equipment or the ability to test or track COVID-19 cases. He also noted that Anchorage has never experienced a “spike” in virus cases.
As of May 22, the municipality had just 21 active cases and two current hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Four people have died from the disease.
Nevertheless, Berkowitz said there will be no public celebration of Memorial Day “out of an abundance of caution.”
“What I don’t want us to do is to become complacent,” he said. “The disease is still out there.”
Berkowitz announced that public busses will resume on June 1 with limited capacity. The public libraries will open for curbside delivery on June 4.