Rotary Beach south of Saxman is also called Bugge’s Beach. (KRBD file photo)

Two Ketchikan-area beaches have reopened. Ketchikan’s emergency operations center closed South Point Higgins Beach and Rotary Beach — also known as Bugge’s Beach — late last month. At the time, Ketchikan had seen 13 individuals test positive for the coronavirus in a two-week period.

But Ketchikan borough mayor Rodney Dial says things have changed since then. Just two COVID-19 cases have been identified since the beaches closed.

“In the weeks that have followed, the community’s really banded together, we’ve dramatically decreased the number of COVID-19 cases, and I’m happy to announce that as a result, we can reopen these beaches for public use,” he said in a video posted on social media Thursday evening. “All we ask is that you continue to follow social distancing guidelines so that we can continue to get our community back to normal.”

A state mandate prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people remains in effect. And officials say those who don’t share a household must remain at least six feet apart.

Federal, state and local officials now recommend that healthy people wear homemade masks when out in public. That’s because they believe COVID-19 can be spread by people who don’t show symptoms.

Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, also recommends that people stay at least 20 feet from each other during strenuous exercise, like running or biking. She says heavy breathing can propel infectious droplets further than the customary six feet.

Dial says borough playgrounds — including the one at Rotary Beach — remain closed until further notice.