ON THE ROAD AGAIN – One of The RIDE buses goes down Katlian Street past the city boat grid this morning. After four months of being shut down because of antivirus precautions, the public transportation service resumed operations today. All routes remain the same except the Blue Line bus route, which now turns around at Whale Park instead of the Gary Paxton Industrial Park. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Legislators Reconvene on Cautious Note

By BECKY BOHRER
The Associated Press

JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska Legislature is set to reconvene Monday for the first time since recessing in late March over coronavirus concerns, with new screening protocols aimed guarding against the virus.

Under the protocols, details of which were released Monday, legislative staff and reporters will be required to undergo screening, which will consist of a temperature check and questions about travel, contacts and symptoms. Screenings will be done by Capital City Fire/Rescue, and badges will be issued to be worn in the Capitol noting that a person has been screened.

The protocols, released by the Legislative Affairs Agency, say legislators may refuse screening. Senate Rules Chair John Coghill said the reason is that a lawmaker cannot be barred from entering the building or “going to their job.” 

“What we’re trying to do is give the opportunity for people to look out for the well-being of their peers but not mandating that they wear a mask or even go through the screening. It’s our recommendation they do it,” the North Pole Republican said. 

Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Nikiski Republican, faced backlash in raising questions about the screening process last week in an email chain with other legislators. “If my sticker falls off, do I get a new one or do I get public shaming too? Are the stickers available as a yellow Star of David?” he wrote. 

Carpenter in an interview said he was trying to make a point about a loss of liberties. He said coronavirus fears are “causing us to have policies that don’t make any sense.” 

Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold, in a social media post accompanying the rules, said she would “politely decline,” calling them “over the top.” 

The Capitol will remain closed to the public. The protocols say face coverings must be worn — though Coghill said legislators will not be mandated to do so — and people are to maintain social distancing, including having only one person in an elevator at a time. 

A statue of William Seward wears a mask outside the Alaska Capitol today in Juneau. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Nonessential staff and reporters will not be allowed on the Senate floor Monday, according to a statement from Senate majority communications director Daniel McDonald, citing limited space and social distancing requirements. McDonald said the floor session would be livestreamed. The larger House chamber was allowing press seating in a gallery section. 

Other legislatures that are meeting have adopted protocols as well. Hawaii, for example, has temperature screening, face-mask requirements and recommended limits on the number of people in elevators.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. 

Alaska lawmakers face a pending constitutional meeting deadline Wednesday, though they have the ability to extend for another 10 days if they muster sufficient support.

The session’s resumption was prodded by a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of plans for distributing federal coronavirus relief aid. A legislative committee agreed to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s plans for more than $1 billion in aid funds, despite legal questions over whether that was the appropriate process for approving some of the items.

The House majority, in a release last week, said the sole focus will be on clearing up questions about use of the funds. However, a House committee on Tuesday plans a hearing on voting by mail and the House has noticed on its calendar a bill updating the state’s alcohol laws and a measure to raise the state’s motor fuel tax. 

Austin Baird, the House majority communications director, said the vote-by-mail hearing is informational only and said he wasn’t sure if there would be action on the alcohol and motor fuel tax bills.

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-13-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 10:30 a.m. Monday.

New cases as of Sunday: 60

Total statewide – 1,539

Total (cumulative) deaths – 17

Active cases in Sitka – 4 (2 resident; 2 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 14 (11 resident; 3 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 87.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

 

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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