Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the first two of measures aimed at cautiously reopening Alaska’s economy this evening: To-go alcohol deliveries and eased restrictions on many medical procedures.
OK, so the main point of tonight’s announcement was really focused on the easing of rules issued last week that sought to halt several surgeries and other medical procedures–under the governor’s effort of getting “certain sectors of the economy” reopened–but that’s nearly not as fun as delivery beer and wine. So, let’s get the booze news out of the way first.
The Alaska Alcohol Beverage Control Board met last week to come up with a list of recommendations for emergency regulations and other changes that could help ease the risk that COVID-19 spreads at restaurants and liquor stores. One of those requests was to allow curbside pickup of alcohol but it appears that the Dunleavy administration took it one step further by allowing the delivery of beer and wine with meal orders, a move that several Lower 48 states made headlines for allowing.
“A number of these restaurants/bars were able to sell alcohol at one time with their meals,” he said during tonight’s update. “What we’re going to allow happened is when a meal is ordered from a restaurant and the individual wants wine or beer that, too, can be delivered to the home.”
The rules will specifically allow curbside pickup of alcohol from liquor stores, distilleries, breweries and restaurants, removing the requirement for people to enter the stores, as well as delivery of sealed containers of beer and wine from restaurants when people order a meal.
“Alaska’s hospitality industry is a robust and significant pillar of our state’s economy. By allowing for the curbside pickup of food and drink from our restaurants and the additional delivery of beer and wine with food orders, we are able to provide some relief to Alaskan business owners while upholding our social distancing health mandates,” the governor said in a prepared statement after the press conference.
The Marijuana Control Board also met to consider emergency recommendations for the industry, ultimately requesting the ability to allow curbside pickup of marijuana orders as well as other changes meant to ease the risk of spread while employees make wholesale deliveries. The industry stopped short of asking for deliveries.
No marijuana-related changes were mentioned tonight.
On Monday night, Dunleavy said his administration is looking at getting Alaska’s economy restarted and planned on taking steps to reopen “certain sectors of the economy.” That “certain sector of the economy” is the health care industry, which Dunleavy said is best prepared to lead the reopening.
“This would be the sector that would lead us into opening other sectors,” he said.
Last week, the state issued an order putting a halt to a wide swath of medical procedures and surgeries, including abortion, in a stated effort to preserve personal protective equipment and the capacity of the health care system. Less than a week later, the governor is easing back on that order.
When asked what changed, he said COVID-19 is changing rapidly and that it appears supplies of personal protective equipment are becoming more readily available. He said, though, if there’s any sign that this reopening leads to a renewed surge in cases “that may make it necessary for us to throttle back.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said an additional concern about the state’s halt to elective procedures is that people may not be getting important care out of fear of COVID-19, such as cancer screenings, emergency care and mental health care.
“We are concerned that people are hesitant to go into the hospital or clinic and they may be delaying or deferring care, and that’s part of the reason for trying to think about how we can open up more health care safely to be able make sure that we’re not having other health outcomes,” she said. “That can be mental health, physical health.”
She says research into previous pandemics shows an increase in other chronic health problems and stressed that people should seek care if they need it.
“If you are having chest pain, if you develop symptoms consistent with a stroke, if you are about to have a baby, those are all important things to seek health care for,” she said. “We want to make sure that you can seek it in a safe way and why we are really prioritizing testing in hospitals.”
Zink added that most dental procedures will remain on hold because oral procedures and drilling pose a high risk of spreading COVID-19.
When asked about what other sectors of the Alaska economy he might consider opening next if the health care goes well, Dunleavy said retail, specifically sporting goods stores, and churches would likely be next but stressed that absolutely nothing in these plans means the state would be relaxing its social distancing requirements any time soon.
“We’re still going to be six feet apart. We’re still going to be washing our hands as much as possible. We’re not going to shake hands with folks. We’re going to wipe down every surface we can to kill the germs, kill the virus,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to go into the seniors’ home like we did before, at least not for a while. There are still going to be things we can’t do or we’re going to have to do very differently, but there’s going to be more and more things that we used to do that we are going to be able to do in the future if we continue to practice some of these hygiene practices that we talked about but also the social distancing.”