Businesses in parts of Alaska cautiously began reopening Friday, as part of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s plan to restart segments of the economy affected by coronavirus concerns. Signs of the times were everywhere: Barbers wore face masks, and notices warned of limits on customer numbers.
In Juneau, whose downtown core is typically humming this time of year, there was little foot traffic Friday afternoon. Many storefronts remained dark. The capital city earlier Friday urged businesses to wait to commit to reopening until the Assembly on Monday considers whether to “moderate” Dunleavy’s reopening approach.
In Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz outlined plans for reopening Monday largely consistent with Dunleavy’s approach.
Alaska is among the first states in the West to begin reopening, allowing restaurants, retail shops, personal care services and other businesses that were classified as nonessential to operate, with limitations. Dunleavy, a Republican, has maintained that health considerations must come first and that officials feel good about the state’s COVID-19 numbers, healthcare capacity, equipment and ability to track cases.
The state has reported fewer than 350 cases, which includes 208 recovered cases, and nine deaths.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The governor said Thursday he thinks most people realize “you cannot keep an economy in 2020 turned off and in a coma for an unlimited period of time.”
The state believes it can maintain the health of Alaskans while beginning to reopen the economy, Dunleavy said. “And the near future’s going to determine whether that call is correct. And, again, we think it is, as long as we follow the science and the data,” he said.
He said the state will continue working with communities, and there’s “no need for the heavy hand of the state.”
Under the state’s order, there are restrictions on how many people can be in a restaurant, barber shop or other business and protocols for face coverings and sanitation. For personal care services, such as salons and tattoo shops, there can be no waiting areas.
In Homer, many businesses are advertising limited hours. Ashley Moore of Moore Music is waiting until Tuesday to open, to give herself more time to prepare, including rearranging her showroom for social distancing, she told the Homer News.
“Better right than rushed,” she said in an email.
Hairstylist Ashley Story in Homer said she had the day booked Friday. She told the newspaper that customers wait their turn in their cars until she signals for them to come in.