The Dillingham City Council passed an ordinance Thursday extending its travel permit requirement for entry into the community until June 29. It also extended its requirement to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. It did not vote to require testing.
The City of Dillingham council passed an ordinance Thursday that extends the travel permit and quarantine requirement until June 29. It also expanded the essential air travel district to include the entire city, including Kanakanak beach. The ordinance also addresses confusion surrounding travel to Dillingham from Aleknagik. Anyone who lives on the road system outside of city limits can travel to Dillingham for groceries or fuel, to go to the post office or the bank, to go to work, and for medical reasons.
The city is not requiring testing for incoming travelers — for now. City Manager Tod Larson put a memo before the council that would have required travelers to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arriving. If that person was quarantining in Dillingham, they would have to get tested before coming to the community.
During the city's Thursday workshop, several members of the public testified in strong support of required testing, saying it is necessary to prevent an outbreak.
"I was deeply troubled to hear people say that requiring testing up front is unreasonable," said Alannah Hurley, the executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. "What's truly unreasonable is the reality... that our communities are being forced by the state to deal with an influx of people from all over the world, many coming from COVID hotspots, and they're forcing us to do so without any adequate protective measures. That's what's truly unreasonable."
Hurley said the state was failing the community, and that the city needed to start requiring testing immediately in order to keep residents safe. Norm Van Vactor, CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, echoed that sentiment, saying that regional organizations were trying to work with the state, but that communities may have to put their own protective measures in place.
"It might be looking the State of Alaska in the face and saying, 'You know what, you say we can't but we need to do what's right to protect the citizens of our communities," he said.
Council member Kaleb Westfall proposed revisiting all aspects of the ordinance, including the testing requirements, that did not have to do specifically with the travel permit system.
"My intent is to essentially solve our issue of travel, hopefully tonight, because I think — my impression is we kind of agree on that language. And to take this in smaller bites," he said.
Council member Gregg Marxmiller requested that the council reconsider the testing requirements and the other excluded sections in the next council meeting on May 7.
The city is not restricting movement around the Dillingham harbor or the Icicle Plant and the Wood River launch, either. Those areas, called “Fisheries related use districts”, were taken out of the ordinance. In discussion, council members raised questions about the practicality of the measures, saying that it appeared to restrict the movement of local residents more than that of outside fishermen.
The proposal would have required anyone needing to conduct business at the harbor — like launching a boat or going to the NAPA store — to quarantine within the harbor area for 14 days. The council also amended the original resolution so that facemasks are not mandated by the city at this time. Commercial fishing vendors are required to comply with the city, dock and vendor rules.
Listen to the full meeting here: