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Alaska Legislature

To stop coronavirus spread, Alaska legislators close state Capitol to public

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Friday, March 6, 2020. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — The Alaska State Capitol has been closed to the public in order to limit the spread of coronavirus, lawmakers said Friday.

“Effective immediately, access to the State Capitol will be limited to lawmakers, employees of the Legislature, members of the governor’s administration, and credentialed journalists,” said a written statement issued by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and signed by the Legislature’s leaders.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said the closure is indefinite. The Capitol will be closed to the public as long as the virus remains a threat.

Around the state, rural and urban Legislative Information Offices were also closing for in-person assistance, the Alaska LIOs said Saturday on Twitter.

“LIO staff are still available for assistance by phone, email, and chat,” the Alaska LIO said in the tweet. “Public testimony is available to all constituents by phone.”

Lawmakers determined their counter-virus strategy in a series of closed-door meetings inaccessible to the public, including reporters.

Earlier Friday, lawmakers voted to place Stevens in charge of the Legislature’s response to the virus. Stevens’ nomination was approved unanimously by the Senate, and all but four members of the House voted in favor of the action.

“Legislative work will continue as normal, and Alaskans will be able to participate fully in the public process by following along on Gavel Alaska, AKL.tv, and through written and telephonic testimony,” the written statement said.

In addition to closing the building to the public, the Legislature has banned “state-sponsored travel by lawmakers and legislative employees,” following a similar ban enacted by Gov. Mike Dunleavy for executive-branch employees.

“Additionally, anyone with access to the Capitol who travels out-of-state on personal business will be advised not to re-enter the building for at least seven days upon returning,” the written statement says.

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