6 things you need to know about Alaska’s new travel rules

Travelers at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage are pre-screened for COVID-19 in June. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska will impose new travel restrictions on people arriving in the state starting August 11. They result from a mandate Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced late last month, as COVID-19 cases were on the rise. Here’s what you need to know:

1.The new rules place more of a burden on visitors. But they’re not quite as tough as what they sounded like when the governor announced them July 28.

The rules stress that nonresidents coming to Alaska need to get tested within three days of their departure. When the mandate was first announced, visitors had to have their negative test results in hand before they arrived. Given the uncertainty of testing in different parts of the country, this could’ve been quite a challenge. But now the state’s COVID travel website says if you don’t have test results in hand, you at least need to have proof that you got a test in the previous 72 hours and you need to quarantine while you wait for the results.

2. Nonresidents who arrive without having tested in advance can still test at the airport but now it will cost them $250.

This is an expensive option, and the visitors are told to quarantine until the results come back. 

3. There is a screening process at the airport, but it’s not as stringent as passport control after an international flight.

The exact look has varied over time and from airport to airport. At Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage Sunday, contractors in orange vests approached new arrivals in the concourse. They asked the passengers to fill out online travel declarations and directed them to the document screening area. From there, the passengers could go on to the COVID testing area.

4. Airport testing is still free for Alaska residents.

The new rules say Alaskans must also get tested within three days of leaving to come back to the state. But residents have other options. They can test for free when they land at the airport, or they can opt to do a 2-week quarantine.

5. Your obligations aren’t over with that first nasal swab.

Everyone, even those with negative test results, is instructed to follow strict social distancing for 14 days after arriving, or until the traveler gets a second negative result from a test done a week or more after arriving.

6. Yes, there could be penalties for flouting the rules.

Technically, under certain circumstances, people could be charged with reckless endangerment. They could also face civil penalties. But we don’t know any instance where that has happened.

The bottom line: Everybody should get a test within three days of traveling to Alaska. Visitors can still test at the airport but it’s expensive.

RELATED: Border Woes: When Canada says no

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her atlruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Lizhere.

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