Unalaska City Council enacts temporary mask mandate as COVID-19 infections rise

A sign reads City Hall Unalaska Alaska in front of a rust-colored building.
The Unalaska City Council voted to enact a citywide mask mandate at its meeting Tuesday, in an attempt to curb the recent spread of COVID-19 infections. (Laura Kraegel / KUCB)

The Unalaska City Council voted unanimously in favor of a citywide mask mandate at its meeting Tuesday, in an attempt to curb the recent spread of COVID-19 infections.

Businesses will be able to remain open, but all customers and employees over the age of two are now required to wear a face covering while inside.

There are currently 15 active COVID-19 cases in Unalaska, according to the latest city news release. All of them are residents, as opposed to seafood-industry workers. 

Melanee Tiura, the chief executive at Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic, said during the evening meeting that she expects those numbers to continue rising.

“What we’re seeing over the last week and a half is community-acquired cases every few days,” Tiura said. “So we do know it’s circulating.”

RELATED: Unalaska boosts COVID risk level to high after potential spread at weekend festivals

Tiura said local health care facilities are equipped to handle mild cases and non-critical patients, but the concern comes when someone has to be medevaced to Anchorage, where overburdened hospitals are struggling to treat an influx of COVID-19 patients.

“Locally, we’re doing well, but we’ve had two situations in the past month where we’ve transferred patients for COVID and non-COVID reasons where they were not accepted by the hospital we were intending to transfer them to, and needed to go to another facility. Still within Anchorage, but that is concerning to us,” Tiura said.

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While several on the council were reluctant to enforce a mask mandate, all members ultimately voted in favor of the requirement. 

The mandate, which became effective Tuesday at noon, is set to expire in two weeks. Council members plan to hold a special meeting on Sept. 7 to assess the requirement’s effectiveness.

“If we start seeing the numbers go down, then I think we can lift that mandate,” said Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson.

The city also launched an online COVID-19 Dashboard on its website Tuesday, allowing residents to see up-to-date information on case counts in Unalaska. Officials say they will update the site several times throughout the week.

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