On April 27, the Municipality of Anchorage filed two petitions seeking court approval to force-quarantine two people awaiting COVID-19 test results.
There were no court hearings, as the city dismissed the petitions and the case was closed April 30 after both tests came back negative. They are the only such attempts in the state, Alaska State Courts General Counsel Nancy Meade said Wednesday.
The petitions are an example of the power government can wield during an emergency. City officials, through Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s spokeswoman, Carolyn Hall, declined an interview or to provide in-depth reasoning for the petitions.
Hall confirmed the city filed the petitions and said the two respondents were screened at a homeless shelter and showed symptoms of COVID-19. They consented to testing, Hall said via email, but refused to go into quarantine while the results were processed.
Hall said the city would not share any other information. It is not clear where the two individuals resided while awaiting testing.
Meade said no hearings were held.
Meade said the case falls under a special order issued by Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger on March 31. That order states that court proceedings to authorize the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to test, examine, screen, isolate or quarantine an individual to prevent the spread of a contagious disease would be closed to the public automatically.
All records of such proceedings are confidential, Meade said.
Though the order only named the state agency, Meade said it applied to local government seeking authority to force testing or quarantine upon someone in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Bolger’s order references Alaska state statute which allows for forced quarantine or testing. That statute states the department seeking forced quarantine or testing must allege “that the individual poses a significant risk to public health; whether testing, screening, examination, treatment, or related procedures are necessary; (and) that the individual is unable or unwilling to behave so as not to expose other individuals to danger of infection.”
On Tuesday, Bolger amended the special order to specifically state that it applies to municipalities and boroughs, in addition to the state.
[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]