Mayor Bronson in quarantine after head of Anchorage Community Development Authority tests positive for COVID-19

Mayor Dave Bronson is quarantining after coming into close contact with Mike Robbins, executive director of the Anchorage Community Development Authority, who has now tested positive for COVID-19.

The mayor’s office confirmed Monday that Robbins contracted the virus and that Bronson is under quarantine.

Corey Allen Young, spokesman for the mayor’s office, said that Bronson is following the city’s COVID-19 mitigation policy and quarantining for six days, and on the sixth day he will be tested for the virus.

No one else in the mayor’s office came into close contact with Robbins, Young said.

“No one else has tested positive or shown signs of symptoms,” he said by email, adding that the mayor is working from home.

Bronson was in close contact with Robbins at a Visit Anchorage event last week. Two other members of the administration were present but did not have prolonged close contact with Robbins, Young said.

This is the second time this month that the mayor has quarantined following close contact with a COVID-positive member of his administration. Earlier this month, Municipal Manager Amy Demboski and Municipal Attorney Patrick Bergt tested positive for the virus.

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On Monday, Bronson gave a “state of the city address” — by Zoom — to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce during the organization’s “Make it Monday” forum.

“Please again accept my apologies for not being there in person as I’m falling (under) quarantine protocols,” Bronson told the audience.

The mayor has avoided strongly encouraging the wearing of masks or advocating for vaccinations, both proven to reduce virus transmission and the risk of serious illness. Instead, he often defers to Dr. Michael Savitt — his chief medical officer at the Anchorage Health Department — on such matters.

At the chamber’s forum on Monday, Bronson said that the city health department’s top priority has been coordinating the city response to COVID-19, including “expanded testing, targeted vaccinations and monoclonal antibody treatments for enhanced and targeted treatments, especially in our underserved communities.”

Now, “we are working to return to pre-COVID service levels as we get back to providing all the traditional services that the Anchorage Health Department typically provides,” Bronson said.

The health department has also focused on the city’s mass care shelter operations, including the congregate shelter at Sullivan Arena and non-congregate housing, he said.

Addressing homelessness remains a top priority for his administration, the mayor said.

“We continue to work with the Assembly to develop adequate service capacity for those experiencing homelessness in our city and will soon be launching an initiative to reduce panhandling on our streets,” Bronson said.

The pandemic was largely a footnote in Bronson’s Monday remarks to the Chamber. He highlighted his administration’s other priorities: working with the Assembly to pass a budget for the next year; replacing aging docks, broken pilings and other infrastructure challenges in the Port of Alaska modernization program; and encouraging economic growth in the city, among other priorities.

News of Robbins’ positive test result — and Bronson’s quarantine — comes as Anchorage is dealing with stubbornly high rates of virus transmission across the municipality, part of a surge that ramped up dramatically in late summer and was spurred on by the highly contagious delta variant.

Bronson had a mild bout of COVID-19 last fall and suffered long-term symptoms, he has said.

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The mayor staunchly opposes COVID-19 restrictions, including the city’s current masking ordinance, which the Anchorage Assembly passed earlier this month. Bronson vetoed the ordinance requiring mask wearing in indoor public spaces, but the Assembly quickly voted to override the veto.

Bronson and most members of his administration have attended Assembly meetings unmasked since he took office. The emergency mask ordinance exempts Bronson and his administration from the requirement, and members have said that the ordinance was not about getting the mayor to wear a mask but rather protecting public health and safety.

Bronson has spoken out against vaccine mandates and against vaccination requirements for staff at local hospitals. In his campaign, at Assembly meetings and in other public forums, he’s downplayed the severity of the pandemic and its impact on hospitals.

Robbins did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Young did not immediately respond to a question about whether Robbins is experiencing symptoms.