Anchorage is set to begin re-opening many businesses and services starting Monday. The changes will allow many services and shops that have been closed for over a month to start operating again, but with strict new guidelines to suppress transmission of the coronavirus.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz delivered details on what that will look like in Anchorage.
“There is hope. There is a future. We have taken a punch, and we are getting back up. And we are starting to move forward,” Berkowitz said Friday during a press conference broadcast on Facebook. The move represents a shift in the city’s plan to go from a “hunkering down” phase to an “easing” period on the road toward recovery. The mayor, along with his business and public health advisors, offered safety criteria for businesses, ranging from restaurants to legal offices to bait shacks. The guidelines are available in full on the Municipality’s COVID-19 website.
Still, officials are emphasizing the need for the public not to relax in its cautious approach to containing the spread of the coronavirus. And Berkowitz said both businesses and customers need to be mindful of the health risks as they re-engage in more commercial activity.
“I don’t think that people are afraid to go out, I think people are properly cautious,” he said. “I know in my own case, I’m not going to be doing any sit down dining any time soon. We’re going continue to do take out. So people need to think about this in terms of what their own comfort levels are.”
The guidelines provided apply to restaurants, retailers, personal care services, as well as public and non-public facing businesses that have been deemed non-critical.
Many of the rules, particularly as they pertain to restaurant service and salons, are highly detailed, requiring many adjustments that will make the customer experience feel very different from before.
“Barber/Stylist/Technician will wear surgical mask at a minimum,” read the new guidelines, which go a step further from the state regulations laid out thus far. “Cloth face coverings do not provide sufficient protection given the close proximity of individuals.”
Aprons and capes in barbershops that are non-disposable need to be laundered in between each customer. Books and magazines are not allowed in waiting areas, which, in any event, are not allowed to be open. Customers are required to keep on masks during appointments, and “may be removed for a short time when necessary to preform services.”
Dine-in service at restaurants will be by reservation only, and businesses are required to keep a log of those appointments, a step municipal officials say will help with contact tracing in the event a patron is discovered to have the coronavirus later on. Tables will have to be 10 feet apart, and only members of households can dine together.
“It’s going to be a new way of doing business, but it’s also going to be a new way of being a consumer,” said Chris Schutte, director of the city’s Department of Economic and Community Development. “And all of us have to take this very seriously.”
Schutte said the guidelines were developed in consultation with public health experts, businesses and best practices from other jurisdictions
The city’s health department director, Natasha Pineda believes the number of confirmed virus cases will begin to rise as more people begin to circulate. However, she added that some of those increases will come as a result of more tests being conducted in the coming weeks.