In their March 23 meeting, Bethel City Council approved extending a series of emergency mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For at least another 60 days, the council will keep the general emergency mandate, the mask mandate, and there will be no shutting off of water service.
The council will also keep requiring unvaccinated travelers to either present a negative COVID-19 test when they travel to Bethel, or to quarantine for seven days. Dr. Ellen Hodges, Chief of Staff for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, joined the meeting to encourage testing, even for vaccinated travelers.
“We would still strongly encourage everyone to get tested as they pass through the airport. We have variants of the coronavirus circulating in Alaska, and so the more we can test, especially for those traveling in and out by air, the better off we are,” said Hodges.
And to keep up that air travel testing, the Bethel City Council voted to continue funding the airport incentive program for at least another month. That program offers travelers a $25 gift card if they agree to get tested at the airport.
Council members struck down a proposal that would have allowed them to meet in person if the local COVID-19 transmission rate was considered by YKHC to be in the medium transmission category. That proposal would have also admitted members of the public if the transmission rate was in the low transmission category. Councilmember Haley Hanson felt that the guidance was confusing, and thought that the resolution could be better laid out for members of the public.
“I am not going to support this document tonight. I think we have some time to kind of figure out the details more clearly, and come up with something that I think might work a little better and be communicated to the public more easily,” said Hanson.
Although council members were split on this vote 5 to 2, they were unanimous in their praise for City Attorney Elizabeth "Libby" Bakalar during her annual performance review. Council members Conrad “CJ” McCormick and Rose “Sugar” Henderson said that they gave Bakalar five out of five points in every category, and all council members voted to raise her salary the maximum allowable 3%.
City Manager Pete Williams’ six month review had been scheduled for the meeting, but council members voted to push it to next session, citing exhaustion at the end of a more than three-hour-long meeting with a busy agenda. The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for April 13.
Correction: The story originally stated that the next city council meeting will be April 6. That is incorrect. The next regular meeting is scheduled for April 13.