Ketchikan pandemic response officials are calling out local bars they say are linked to recent COVID-19 cases. And some business owners aren’t happy.

Pat Tully is with the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center.

“So in this past week, there have been 10 cases of COVID-19 in Ketchikan, and four of those were determined to be community transmission,” Tully said in a phone interview.

That’s when Public Health can’t trace its source. It implies that are COVID-19 positive people that are actively spreading and aren’t aware they’re a risk, and the four recent community spread cases led officials to bump the community’s risk level from “low” to “moderate” on Thursday.

“And in doing the investigation into those cases, six of the 10 recent positive cases have identified being at particular establishments in Ketchikan between Jan. 20 to the 28th,” Tully said.

Those establishments are five downtown bars:

  • The Arctic
  • The Asylum
  • 49’er Bar
  • Moose Lodge #224
  • Totem Bar

It’s the first time Ketchikan has called out individual businesses by name. And some are bristling at the move.

Steven Kantor heads the Ketchikan chapter of the Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, or CHARR. He says it’s unfair for local officials to single out bars like his, the 49’er.

“We’re concerned it shows a lack of transparency on the part of EOC in not listing all the businesses these people went to,” Kantor said. “Here we have eight days of travel, we only have five locations listed. So we are very concerned. To just simply target out the hospitality industry as a whole is unfair to the community at large.”

Kantor says he recognizes the importance of pandemic safety measures — he spoke to KRBD late Friday afternoon after taking his staff to get tested. He says to date, none of his staff has tested positive, though he was still waiting on results from the most recent round of tests.

In a statement, Ketchikan’s emergency operations center defended the decision to name businesses. Spokesperson Kacie Paxton says difficulties with contact tracing made it necessary.

“If Public Health can effectively identify individuals that the positive person came in contact with, the EOC would not list the business.  In this case, the nature of the operation and the length of potential interaction in those locations led to the difficulty in the contact tracing and the need to announce,” Paxton said in an email.

In the meantime, it recommends that anyone who’s visited one or more of the five bars to quarantine for two weeks since their visit. That means staying home, getting essential supplies delivered and watching for symptoms.

Those without symptoms should get tested about a week after they visited one of the bars.

Officials say people who do develop symptoms, like a fever or cough, should get tested immediately, but should remain quarantined for the full two weeks.

Ketchikan’s EOC runs a free, drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. It usually runs Tuesday through Saturday, but the EOC says free testing will be available this Sunday and Monday, as well.