Alaska bars can reopen on Friday, and other state businesses will be able to expand the number of customers they have beginning Friday morning, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced on Wednesday.
In addition, up to 50 people can gather in social and religious groups. Businesses will be able to operate at 50% of their capacity — twice the level currently allowed. Restaurants will be able to serve walk-in patrons.
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Dunleavy said that if the state continues to make progress, he and health officials will be able to announce the third phase in the state’s reopening as soon as next week. Dunleavy previously had said officials would consider the changes over a two-week period, since the coronavirus can incubate for up to two weeks.
Dunleavy said the ability to reopen will depend on the actions Alaskans take to reduce the spread of the virus.
“It’s really going to fall on the individual to make sure we don’t cause a spike in the number of cases,” he said, emphasizing the importance of staying away from others.
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Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said some types of businesses couldn’t operate at 25 percent of capacity, and hoped that they would be able to open at 50 percent.
Bars and gyms will be able to operate at 25 percent of capacity. Gyms were only allowed to have outdoor classes in the first phase of reopening; now indoor classes are allowed.
Dunleavy and Crum have said that the state would reopen businesses and gatherings over five phases. The first phase began on April 24th and allowed retail businesses to open at 25 percent of their capacity.
Dunleavy has said he would base his decisions on data. Since he first announced the easing of state mandates, the number of new COVID-19 cases has trended down, while the daily test results have increased. Alaska has the third-fewest confirmed cases per capita among the states, after Hawaii and Montana. It has the 10th-most tests per capita. It has the lowest rate of positive tests.
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But the state also announced its first death from the disease since April 14, the 10th overall.
Health officials have said they could again impose restrictions if there is a spike in cases. But Dunleavy has said he would want to target future restrictions more narrowly.