Ketchikan-area officials declared a disaster emergency in a Monday afternoon news conference.
There are still no confirmed coronavirus cases in Ketchikan. But local officials say they are taking extreme precautions to slow the virus’s spread.
The mayors of the City of Ketchikan, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the City of Saxman issued a joint statement Monday. The emergency declaration is designed to “activate the response and recovery aspects of any and all applicable […] emergency plans”.
In a written statement, the joint emergency operations center closed city and borough administrative buildings to the public at 5 p.m. Monday. Those include the White Cliff Building, Ketchikan City Hall, all Ketchikan Public Utilities offices and more. Those offices will continue to operate during normal business hours and staff will be available over the phone or online, according to the statement.
Ketchikan’s borough Mayor Rodney Dial re-emphasized that residents shouldn’t gather in groups.
“I want to thank the citizens for continuing to act in a responsible manner and for responding to state and federal guidelines to adhere to social distancing guidelines. You’re truly working together in a unified effort to focus on the health of our community and together, we can help make a difference and flatten the curve,” Dial said.
Officials also said they’d increase internet speeds and suspend data caps on the city-owned broadband network.
The joint emergency declaration comes after state officials announced Alaska’s first case of the coronavirus on Thursday. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the infected person arrived on a cargo plane that landed in Anchorage.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus has already taken an enormous toll on everyday life in Ketchikan. All local schools and a number of other public facilities are closed through the end of March.
If you suspect you may have the coronavirus, officials recommend calling a doctor before coming into the office to avoid spreading it to others.
“We want people to take even mild symptoms very seriously,” said Ketchikan emergency manager and fire chief Abner Hoage in a Monday evening interview.
But he says most residents able to care for themselves at home should do so — and isolate themselves from others.
“If you have symptoms, but you’re not in immediate need of medical care — you’re not having severe respiratory distress, you don’t need to be under the care of a doctor, you just think you may have the virus — and you can self-care at home and isolate yourself, that’s really the best way right now,” Hoage said. “If you’re well enough to take care of yourself at home, you should do that.”
But Hoage says people to whom the coronavirus poses a high risk should seek medical advice for even symptoms that might seem mild, like a fever or cough. Those include people with heart or lung issues and people over 65 — the latter of which make up 15 percent of the borough’s population.
The following facilities closed to the public Monday afternoon:
- Borough White Cliff Building, 1900 First Avenue; Taxes and Billing Information 228-6620
- Borough Pat Wise Animal Shelter, 1111 Stedman St, 228-6660
- City Hall, 334 Front Street; Customer Service 225-3111
- City of Ketchikan Ports and Harbors, 2933 Tongass Avenue, 228-5632
- All KPU Offices, including KPU Customer Service in the Plaza, 2417 Tongass Avenue; 228-5474
- Ketchikan City Fire Station #1, 70 Bawden Street, 225-9616
- Ketchikan City Fire Station #2, 3352 Tongass Avenue, 247-9616
- Saxman City Hall and Community Center, 2841 South Tongass Hwy, 225-4166