EDITOR, Daily News:
Last week, Alaska had its first case of the coronavirus: a cargo pilot traveling through Anchorage. With the amount of travel that Alaskans have done over the last month, it is likely that there are more untested and unverified cases already here.
There is certainly no need to panic, but let’s err on the side of caution. One thing you can do is stay informed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website updated multiple times per day. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has a webpage dedicated to the virus in Alaska that is updated daily. Thank you also to the Daily News for providing helpful data and information.
You know the drill — wash your hands! If you are able, please stay home, especially if you are showing any symptoms. Do not unnecessarily overstock toiletries, and be willing to share or donate if you bought in bulk. Practicing “social distancing” will slow down the spread of the virus, putting less immediate pressures on our health care system.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough, the City of Ketchikan, and the City of Saxman have worked together to share suggestions and make necessary changes. It is recommended that all large public gatherings be canceled or postponed until next month. School districts across the state have extended spring break an additional week until March 27. The Kethcikan Public Library, Tongass Historical Historical Museum, and the Gateway Recreation Center are closed for at least two weeks. The transit system adjusted its schedule to accommodate increased cleaning services. The Port of Ketchikan remains open to allow barge services to continue fully functioning.
Last week, the Legislature passed the Mental Health budget, which allocates $4.1 million in state funding and $9 million in federal funding to prepare for COVID-19. We are considering adopting measures that will support those who will experience economic hardship - such as the visitor and fishing industries — due to impacts of the virus. Legislative work here in Juneau is continuing, but we are taking proactive measures against the virus. The Capitol Building is only open to legislators, staff members and members of the press. All public testimony is being received via telephone or email.
Despite all of the actions taken by local, state, and federal governments, at the end of the day, the health of our community is up to you. That’s a good thing! Community is something that Southeast Alaskans are already very good at doing. Thank you to everyone who is being mindful of their friends, families, and neighbors, especially those who may be immunocompromised. I have no doubt you will continue to embrace the strong and caring values of our community during this stressful time. Being a good neighbor might look different right now and require a little more effort to lend a helping hand.
REP. DAN ORTIZ
House District 36