JBER declares public health emergency amid COVID surge

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (Emily Russell/Alaska Public Media)

Military leaders on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage have declared a public health emergency and encouraged all personnel to avoid places that do not require masks or social distancing in response to increasing COVID-19 cases in Alaska, officials said.

“We’ve all seen COVID-19 cases continue to spread rapidly across our nation, the state of Alaska and in our local community,” U.S. Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, 673d Air Base Wing and JBER commander, said in a statement Friday. “After close consultation with JBER mission commanders, I have decided to declare a Public Health Emergency.”

Aguilar said the declaration will remain in effect for 30 days, but could be shortened or extended based on cases and community transmission of COVID-19.

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The base has also transitioned to Health Protection Condition Bravo, which means Aguilar will be able to implement additional measures to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

“If the situation continues to worsen, additional measures to protect the force will be implemented, including restricting access to off-base establishments,” the statement said.

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Hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases across the state have increased as a result of the highly contagious delta variant. Alaska on Friday reported more than 1,200 newly confirmed cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University.

More than 411,000 people, or 56% of the state population, has received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 357,000 people, or 49% of the state population, are fully vaccinated.

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