ANCHORAGE — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy will lift most restrictions put into place because of the coronavirus as of Friday.
"It's time to get Alaska back on its feet," he said at a Tuesday evening news conference. "Friday, we're open for business across the state of Alaska."
Low case numbers and death totals in the nation's largest but sparsely populated state led Dunleavy, a first-term Republican facing a recall effort, to his decision. Alaska has had 399 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths.
All businesses, including bars and gyms, will be allowed to reopen without restrictions or capacity limits, as will churches, libraries and museums. Recreational and sports activities will also be allowed to resume.
"It will all be open just like it was prior to the virus," he said.
There will be some guidelines in place, however. Alaskans will be advised to still practice social distancing, clean touch screens before use, stay home if sick and wear a face covering in public if near other people.
Visitor restrictions remain in place for senior centers, prisons and institutions. And organizers of large gatherings and festivals should consult with public health officials before scheduling events.
Dunleavy said he doesn’t anticipate a return to statewide health mandates and added that it’s the responsibility of local governments, businesses and Alaskans to prevent future outbreaks.
Some Alaska communities may have different plans for reopening. For instance, the state's largest city of Anchorage has generally followed the state's plans with a few days' lag. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has a news conference planned later in the week.
Dunleavy's decision also comes at the start of the Memorial Day holiday, the traditional opening of the Alaska tourist season. Many cruise ship companies have canceled sailings into Alaska, and the state still has its policy for those arriving from out of state to quarantine for 14 days. That policy is in effect until June 2, but Dunleavy said the state is working with air carriers and airports to allow passengers to come into Alaska from other states.
"We're in great shape number-wise," he said. "We need to get the economy open, we need to get society open."