Bethel City Council could ban ATVs from the highway and extend COVID-19 mitigation measures
During their Feb. 8 meeting, the Bethel City Council is set to consider its bimonthly COVID-19 Emergency mitigation measures. It could also vote to remove ATVs from Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway.
Every two months, the Bethel City Council considers a set of emergency measures whose purpose is to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Bethel. There’s the city-wide mask mandate, a measure that prevents water shutoff for people who can’t pay their water and sewer bills, and a testing and quarantine mandate. The measures come while Alaska has the highest rates of COVID-19 out of anywhere in the country.
The mask mandate and water shutoff measure, as proposed, haven’t changed since the last time they came up for a vote. The proposed mask mandate still says that people in Bethel have to wear their masks in public places. And the water shutoff measure says that the city can only shut off a resident’s water if their bill exceeds $5,000.
But the testing and quarantine mandate proposal looks a little different than when it last came up in December 2021. Previously, only unvaccinated people had to test before traveling to Bethel. With this new proposal, all travelers who are “not up to date with their vaccinations,” would have to test. That would mean people who are unvaccinated, as well as people who are vaccinated, but don’t have their booster shots. The proposal also says that those without booster shots would need to take a test after arrival and quarantine for five days after travel. Travelers who don’t want to test would have to quarantine for 10 days after travel. Previously, travelers needed to use a PCR test before travel. But if this proposal passes, a rapid test would be enough.
The testing and quarantine mandate would exempt infrastructure workers, people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, and children under the age of two. As emergency ordinances, these COVID-19 mitigation measures all require six out of seven council member votes to pass.
The Bethel City Council will also hold a public hearing for a piece of legislation that would once again prohibit ATVs from driving on Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway. They’ve been allowed on the highway since January 2022, when a new state law came into effect. The new state law says that ATV drivers can take to state-owned roads with a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour as long as there are no local ordinances prohibiting them. Bethel’s own ordinance did not prohibit ATVs on its state-owned highway, it only referred to the prior state code. Now, council member Rose “Sugar” Henderson wants to once again forbid them on the highway. She has described them as dangerous in previous meetings.
You can join the meeting by clicking here. Meetings are currently only being held virtually. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast over KYUK 640 AM and streamed at KYUK.org.