Alaska lawmakers return to a state Capitol locked down for COVID-19

The legislative session starts Jan. 19 with no public allowed in the building and a lot of plexiglass.

JUNEAU — Even sculptures are wearing masks.

The 32nd Alaska State Legislature convenes on Tuesday, and legislators will be working under conditions unlike any faced by lawmakers before. Masks are mandated, and everyone in the building is taking two COVID-19 tests per week. Plexiglass divides the desks and the galleries in the House and Senate chambers.

The public has been banned from the building, spectators replaced by robotic cameras in every committee room. Once per day, everyone entering the building must have their temperature taken and answer a questionnaire asking whether they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The first legislators to reach Juneau were the newly elected. They have a week of orientation and training before their swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday. More experienced legislators are arriving as late as Sunday.

Neither the House nor Senate has selected a leader, and it isn’t certain whether either half of the Legislature will do so before Tuesday.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.