Over the weekend, Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed Alaska’s COVID-19 emergency declaration to expire. With the expiration of the declaration, the state has no more mandates with regards to COVID-19 safety precautions, only advisories.
The declaration had been continuously extended since March 2020, and one of its primary provisions was an airport testing mandate. The mandate required that travelers to Alaska had to either present the results of a negative or pending COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arriving in the state, or they had to take a test at the airport.
During the pandemic, many other cities in Alaska, including Bethel, have set their own mandates to augment the state’s. With the state’s expiring regulations, some second-class cities are trying to understand if their mandates still hold. Bethel City Attorney Elizabeth "Libby" Bakalar said that Bethel is in “uncharted territory,” legally speaking. That is, it’s still uncertain how Bethel’s own mandates would hold up in a court of law. She also wrote that the state’s own declaration of emergency did lend some support to Bethel’s mandates, but she added that the city mandates didn’t necessarily hinge on the state’s. City Clerk Lori Strickler specified that Bethel’s mandates were written to hold up independently of the status of the state’s disaster declaration.
The City of Bethel’s own current testing rules state that people arriving in Bethel need to have a negative COVID-19 test on hand from a test that was taken within 72 hours. Once in Bethel, the traveler must take a COVID-19 test at the five-day mark. They must adhere to social distancing from the moment they arrive until they receive negative test results. The City of Bethel also has a mandate requiring the use of a face mask that covers your mouth and nose when indoors.
As of last week, there were a total of 48 active cases of COVID-19 in the Y-K Delta. Currently, everyone over the age of 16 in Bethel and the Y-K Delta is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.