The Ketchikan Borough Assembly has postponed asking the governor to strengthen the state’s travel restrictions. The measure, brought by two assembly members, seeks a 14-day quarantine requirement for in-state and out of state travelers in addition to COVID-19 testing. Ketchikan’s elected officials are divided over the proposal.
More than a dozen Ketchikan community members spoke for roughly an hour on Monday in favor of stronger pandemic precautions. Assembly members Austin Otis and Felix Wong want to ask the governor to increase travel restrictions. Among the parade of speakers was City Council member Sam Bergeron, who says he’ll bring a similar resolution to the city this week.
Bev Davies and Diane Liljegren wrote an op-ed for local news website SitNews proposing the stronger quarantine model.
Davies expressed concerns about loopholes in the state’s current travel policy, which does not require testing or quarantine for in-state travel.
“There is only a Swiss cheese-like policy for arriving interstate travelers,” she said.
Others said they were worried about travelers bypassing the airport testing station or failing to return for a follow up test.
This is why some said they favored a quarantine requirement on top of testing. In support of the resolution, Wong advocated for taking strong preventative measures even while cases are low.
“If someone has died here it’s way too late,” he said. “You don’t slam on the brakes right at the stoplight.”
But borough mayor Rodney Dial and assembly member Alan Bailey expressed concerns about the resolution. Bailey particularly mentioned the potential economic impact on those who have already been struggling financially.
“There are two sides to this coin and I want to start with the foundation of this whole process, is that, you know, both legal, social, economic impacts of strict enforcement quarantine into our community does have effects.”
Bailey says he’s also worried about the implications for those who have to travel often for work or medical care. And about people having to pay for hotel accommodations for quarantine. He also expressed concerns about surveillance and enforcement of the policy.
“You place security in front of individuals or watching individuals or ensuring they’re at a specific location, you in fact do have a police state,” he said.
Others questioned whether local authorities could enforce testing and quarantine restrictions at all. Wong argued that the mere existence of a policy would lead travelers to be more cautious.
“This isn’t about setting up a police state, this is far from it. Otherwise you can argue the same about trying to enforce speed limits.”
Before voting on the resolution, assembly members discussed a variety of changes, including changing mandatory quarantine to suggested quarantine for in-state travelers. The assembly voted 5-1 to table the resolution until the next meeting in order to make the edits. Only Felix Wong voted against tabling the request for state action.
In other business, the assembly unanimously passed a resolution to submit a grant application to the Rasmuson Foundation. That could mean up to $50,000 in additional private funding for local arts and culture organizations. The assembly also green-lit over $300,000 in grants to local nonprofits, including Rainbird Community Broadcasting, Inc., which owns and operates KRBD.
The assembly also approved more than $250,000 in federal coronavirus aid for the school district. Members also voted to appropriate money from the Land Trust Fund and lease space in the White Cliff Building to the school district for office space.
In her report to the assembly, finance director Cynna Gubatayao said that the borough needs to spend more of its initial CARES Act funding in order to receive the next distribution. She proposed increasing the amount of money going to local businesses from 10 to 25 percent of their previous lost revenue.
Gubatayao also gave preliminary projections of sales tax income for April, May and June. She expects a 25 to 40 percent decline compared to last year, but said she will have better projections at the next meeting on Monday, Aug. 17.