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Alaska News

State of Alaska releases business guidance for Friday’s lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

Christian Bailey disinfects shopping baskets at Title Wave Books on May 14 before the store opened to customers. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

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In advance of Friday morning’s move to Phases 3 and 4 of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reopening plan, the state released a new set of guidelines for how businesses should operate once nearly all of the COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted.

The guidelines say businesses should keep intact many of the policies required under Dunleavy’s mandates, such as wearing face coverings, having hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations available to customers, implementing social distancing practices and increased disinfecting of surfaces.

The state is providing the guidelines to advise businesses, but they are not mandatory.

“This next phase is about personal responsibility and businesses can adapt their own rules,” Alaska Department of Health and Social Services spokesman Clinton Bennett said in an email.

The changes taking effect Friday morning lift nearly all of the coronavirus health mandates, but individual city and borough governments may keep stricter policies in place. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said he will announce his plan Friday at noon.

Additionally, the 14-day quarantine for travelers coming to Alaska from out of state remains in place, as does a restriction on travel to Alaska villages off the road system and a mandate addressing nonurgent medical and dental procedures.

In general, the state’s guidelines advise Alaskans to wash their hands often and for 20 seconds. They also say to avoid coming within 6 feet of people you don’t live with, and to wear a cloth face covering when in public.

The state’s guidance says you should disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home daily, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay home if you’re feeling ill.

For businesses, the state guidelines recommend cleaning procedures and public health policies stricter than what was in place prior to the pandemic.

All businesses are advised to disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily, and implement a pre-work screening policy for employees. Businesses should encourage employees who are feeling ill to stay home.

Bars and restaurants are advised to provide guides, such as tape on the floor, to keep people 6 feet apart, and to install physical barriers such as Plexiglas shields on places like host stands.

They are also advised to replace buzzers alerting diners that their table is ready with text notifications, and laminated menus with digital or disposable ones.

Large condiment bottles should be replaced with single-use servings, and bars and restaurants are also advised to avoid self-serve food and drink stations.

Restaurants are still encouraged to promote drive-thru and takeout options rather than dine-in service.

As more people return to the workplace, child care facilities are expected to be busy. The state suggests child care facilities teach staff and children to wash their hands, and have employees wear face coverings.

Child care facilities should restrict mixing groups of children, and limit children from sharing things like meals and art supplies. The facilities should also consider staggering pick-up and drop-off times to limit how many people congregate.

Child care facilities should also clean surfaces often, and are advised to not allow children to play with soft toys, like stuffed animals, which are difficult to sanitize.

The same policies suggested for child care extend to day camps. Additionally, sleeping locations should be spaced 6 feet apart.

For mass transit, the state suggests floor markings or physical barriers to keep people 6 feet apart. Operators should implement stricter cleaning policies, provide soap or hand sanitizer for passengers and encourage face coverings for employees and passengers.

Long-term living facilities, such as retirement homes, jails and prisons, present a greater risk of being a hot spot for the spread of COVID-19. Accordingly, extra precautions such as aggressive social distancing policies should be taken, the guidelines state.

Communal dining should be canceled at those facilities, as should nearly all visitors. Each facility should have a plan to test all residents and staff.

The state’s Health Mandate 17, which regulates commercial fishing operations, remains in effect and has far more stringent requirements than what’s asked of other businesses. The state added that “every effort should be made” to test fishermen before they board fishing vessels. A mandate that applies to seafood processing workers also remains in place.

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