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Rural Alaska

Utqiaġvik orders penalties for COVID-19 rule breakers

  • Author: Jenna Kunze
    , Arctic Sounder
  • Updated: November 21, 2020
  • Published November 21, 2020

People walk on Stevenson Street in Utqiagvik on Tuesday, December 13, 2016. (Marc Lester / ADN)

The city of Utqiaġvik last week passed a new ordinance with a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those arriving from outside the city, mandatory mask-wearing in public spaces, and penalties for rule breakers, including requiring they make a public service announcement on the dangers of the coronavirus.

The ordinance was approved 4 to 2 at the city council meeting Nov. 10, and took effect the following day.

Mayor Fannie Suvlu, who brought forward the ordinance, said that the policy is intended for public education, not for shaming.

“It’s to educate the community and for the people who violate the ordinance ... to educate themselves on how they put themselves in jeopardy and how they could have put the rest of the community in jeopardy,” she said.

First-time violators will be required to quarantine for two weeks, and produce their public service announcement within that time period.

Public service announcements can take the form of broadcasts over radio, video, or printed flyers, Suvlu said.

Second-time violators will submit to a 14-day quarantine and must serve two hours of community service. Third-time violators must pay a $50 fine.

The emergency order states that “the COVID-19 pandemic has generated a public health emergency and still threatens to overwhelm the health system of the entire State. The City has now reported ‘community spread’ of the virus. Furthermore, the City has limited health resources and we must continue to take steps to slow and contain the threat.”

Since Nov. 10, Arctic Slope Native Association has reported 38 new COVID-19 cases on the North Slope.

On Nov. 16, the agency announced that there were 68 active cases in the region.

On the Northwest Arctic Slope, there were 25 active cases as of Nov. 16.

The state of Alaska’s current alert level — a status based on population size and average daily caseload increases over the last 14 days — is high alert across the state.

Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy released a video announcing a 30-day disaster declaration, and urging Alaskans to take steps to slow virus transmission over the next few weeks by working from home, meeting remotely, and utilizing curbside pickup services whenever possible.

He also asked that everyone stay 6 feet apart from non-household members, and wear a mask in public.

“If we can buy time for our critical workers — if we can keep our systems operational — we can avoid being forced to take further action,” Dunleavy said in the video. “But if we cannot reduce the spread of this virus, we reduce our future options for how to proceed.”