Juneau officials are urging recent bar patrons to seek COVID-19 testing after several bar employees attended a recent gathering linked to multiple virus cases.
In a statement Tuesday, the City and Borough of Juneau described a “large social gathering” at the end of last month that contributed to Juneau’s tally of 25 new COVID-19 cases confirmed since Saturday.
Though health officials haven’t identified COVID-19 spread to Juneau’s bar patrons, contact tracing showed that people who tested positive “socialized in other bar establishments during non-work time prior to their COVID-19 tests,” according to Juneau officials.
The City and Borough of Juneau and the state Division of Public Health are recommending that anyone who “socialized at a Juneau bar” between Aug. 24 and Monday, Sept. 7, get a COVID-19 test whether or not they’re experiencing symptoms of the disease.
In a statement Wednesday, the officials clarified that "socialized” means that someone spent more than 15 minutes in close contact with people from outside of their household, without a mask and around others who were without masks.
Officials also clarified that if it has been more than two weeks since someone went to a bar, they do not need to seek a test. Additionally, if it’s been between 10 and 14 days since someone went to a bar and they can “practice strict social distancing” through the two weeks, then they do not need a test either.
Officials are not releasing the names of specific bars, deputy city manager Mila Cosgrove said Wednesday, because they’re “concerned that the spread among the people who regularly socialize in bars would be beyond the few locations where bar staff have tested positive.”
Cosgrove said they do know that people who tested positive for COVID-19 went to multiple bars in the last two weeks.
“It is better to cast our testing net broader to assure that we are able to test the population of people that might be affected,” Cosgrove said.
Some local bars are closed while their staff get tested for COVID-19, according to the City and Borough of Juneau.
Since the people who attended the private event have been notified, officials are not identifying the specifics of the event publicly, Cosgrove said.
“We do know from local, state and national experience, that large gatherings particularly weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies and other celebrations that involve close friends and family, are places that people let their guard down,” Cosgrove said. “Generally, food and drink are shared, people are unmasked, and they are likely physically closer because they are with the people they care about the most.”
Juneau officials are asking people to get in touch with their health care provider or call the CBJ Screening Hotline at 907-586-6000 to schedule a test. Those with symptoms should isolate until they receive their test results, according to Juneau officials.
There will also be testing available outside Centennial Hall on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Over the summer, bars in multiple Alaska communities were listed by public health officials as places of potential COVID-19 exposure amid rising concerns over the challenges of contact tracing in settings where people were more likely to mix or stay in close proximity to others. Multiple virus cases were publicly tied to establishments in Seward and Anchorage whose patrons were encouraged to get tested or monitor for symptoms.
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