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Alaska Issues First Phase of ‘Reopen Alaska Responsibly’ Plan

On April 22, 2020, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum, and Dr. Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska, issued Health Mandate 16 (effective April 24, 2020) to balance “the ongoing need to maintain diligent efforts to slow and disrupt the rate of infection with the corresponding critical need to resume economic activity in a reasonable and safe manner.” This approach reflects Alaska’s first phase in plans to reopen business activity in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new mandate amends prior orders addressing various categories of social and business activity.

At the same time, state officials announced that “a violation of a State of Alaska COVID-19 Mandate may subject a business or organization to an order to cease operations and/or a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation. In addition to the potential civil fines noted, a person or organization that fails to follow State COVID-19 Mandates designed to protect the public health from this dangerous virus and its impact may, under certain circumstances, also be criminally prosecuted for Reckless Endangerment pursuant to Alaska Statute 11.41.250.”

This new mandate amends prior mandates 3.1, 9, 11, and 12, and addresses additional business and social reopening guidelines set forth in numerous detailed attachments.

Nonessential Public-Facing Businesses

First, Attachment D amends Mandate 11 to allow nonessential businesses not involving in-home services to resume operations as of April 24, 2020, so long as they observe social distancing requirements (including cloth masks, six-foot distancing, and 20-customer limits); follow hygiene protocols; enact employee training and pre-shift screenings; and establish cleaning and disinfecting procedures in conformance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Regarding nonessential businesses requiring in-home services, this amendment describes similar mandates involving social distancing (including, among other things, at least the use of cloth masks), adherence to hygiene protocols, employee training, and pre-shift screenings.

Attachment E also amends Mandate 11 to state that nonessential retail establishments may also reopen as long as they adhere to social distancing, hygiene, employee training and screening, and cleaning and disinfecting protocols. The attachment also encourages these businesses to permit entryway, curbside, or home deliveries; telephone and online ordering; and cashless and receiptless transactions.

Restaurants

Attachment F modifies prior Mandate 3.1 to allow restaurants to resume table service dining as long as they adhere to social distancing mandates, limit indoor seating capacity to 25 percent of the maximum building occupancy, and limit any outdoor seating to no more than 20 tables set 10 feet apart. Restaurants are required to operate on reservations only and will not be allowed to seat walk-in patrons. All employees must wear cloth face coverings. Hygiene protocols, staff training and pre-screening, and cleaning requirements also apply. These businesses are also encouraged to permit entryway, curbside, or home deliveries, use different entry and exit points, and adopt the other suggestions set forth in Attachment E for best practices.

Personal Care Services

Attachment G sets forth amendments to prior Mandate 9 dealing with personal care services including such things as hair and nail salons, day spas, barber shops, tattoo parlors and body piercing shops, tanning facilities, and massage parlors. These businesses may reopen so long as they observe social distancing best practices including reservation-only operations, one customer per staff member protocols, and limits of 10 people in shops, including staff. Workstations must also be placed at least six feet apart. Detailed hygiene, staffing, and cleaning requirements are more particularly set forth in the attachment.

Nonessential, Nonpublic-Facing Businesses

Attachment H amends prior Mandate 11 to state that nonessential, nonpublic-facing businesses may reopen only if they adhere to social distancing and hygiene best practices, staffing protocols, and cleaning requirements. Of note is the requirement that “any high-risk employee must be provided an alternative workspace and/or special accommodations at the employee’s request to avoid contact with, and mitigate the risk of, the employee’s exposure to colleagues and others at the business. Employers should also make efforts to maximize remote work opportunities for eligible employees.” Employers must also enact pre-shift screenings of employees and keep staff screening logs. As with other revised mandates, “no employee displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will provide services to customers” and “symptomatic or ill employees may not report to work” and “no person may work within 72 hours of exhibiting a fever.”

Childcare and Day Camp Service Providers

Attachment I states that childcare and day camp service providers may reopen as long as they operate with a maximum of 10 children per group, prohibit group mixing, and observe social distancing best practices. The attachment also describes detailed hygiene, cleaning, staffing, operational, and training requirements, as well as best practices guidelines.

Fishing Charters

As described in Attachment J, Mandate 11 is amended to allow day fishing charter businesses to reopen so long as they adhere to social distancing best practices (including such things as requiring customers to bring their own food and drink, prohibiting the sharing of rods, and requiring face coverings for both customers and crew). These businesses must also adhere to hygiene, employee testing and training, cleaning, and capacity requirements.

Gyms and Fitness Centers

Attachment K states that outdoor fitness classes and activities at gyms and fitness centers may resume operations as long as they observe social distancing, hygiene, staff training and screening, and cleaning requirements as set forth in detail in the attachment. These include restrictions limiting classes to 20 participants, distancing of at least 10 feet, the use of face masks by employees, and pre-screening of all participants for symptoms of COVID-19 or interaction with those who have tested positive, as well as full disinfection of all equipment prior to each use. “Indoor fitness activities are still prohibited.”

Lodging and Overnight Camping

Attachment L sets forth the requirements for reopening businesses engaged in camping and lodging establishments and areas. This category includes campgrounds, hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, recreational vehicle (RV) parks, and cabins. Unless these businesses have already established and filed protection plans under Mandate 10, they can reopen only if they adhere to social distancing requirements (including such things as no walk-ins, limits on household groups in each room, and the use of cloth face coverings by employees); follow hygiene protocols; institute staff training and pre-shift screenings for COVID-19 symptoms; and adhere to cleaning and disinfecting requirements as more particularly stated in the attachment. As for such businesses operating as mixed food and lodging establishments, the requirements set forth in Attachment F also apply.

Intrastate Travel and Outdoor Day Activity

Attachment M amends Mandate 12 regarding intrastate travel, as well as relevant portions of Mandate 11. Outdoor day activity and intrastate travel will now be permitted as long as certain guidelines are followed. “Members of the same household, travelling in a passenger vehicle or car, are permitted to travel between communities and generally on the road system for any purpose, including, but not limited to, recreational or sightseeing activities conducted within the mandate guidelines.” Members of different households may jointly engage in outdoor activity so long as the group does not exceed 20 persons, non-household members travel separately and observe six-foot distancing, wear face coverings, and refrain from sharing food and drink. While traveling, if travelers must stop for food, gas, or supplies, only one traveler shall engage with the third-party vendor and shall use face masks. More detailed guidance is included in the attachment.

Social, Religious, and Other Gatherings; Stay-at-Home Order Revisions

Attachment N amends Health Alert 11 and Mandate 12 as they relate to social, religious, and other gatherings, whether indoors or outdoors. It clarifies that Mandate 16 also applies to funerals and weddings. Significantly, this attachment states that “individuals are no longer required to stay home as previously required by Mandate 011.” “Individuals frequenting businesses must adhere to the requirements set forth in the relevant attachment applicable to that industry.” Social distancing is required in public spaces and face coverings are mandated where multiple households gather.

Interstate travel remains subject to Mandate 10, “requiring 14-day quarantine upon arriving or returning to Alaska.” “Intrastate travel between communities on the road system is permitted whether by driving or flying to your destination.” “Any family member who is ill with COVID-19 must be immediately isolated in their home or other permitted place of isolation.” “Any individual who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 illness must not leave their home or place of dwelling within 72 hours of their last fever, including to work, except as necessary to seek or receive medical care.” (See Attachment N for additional detailed guidance regarding symptomatic individuals.)

For indoor social gatherings, “no gathering larger than 20 people is allowed, which includes the minimum number of necessary personnel to facilitate the event, or 25 percent maximum occupancy as required by law (whichever is smaller).” Additionally, for mixed household groups, six-foot distancing must be observed and face coverings used; additional signage, entry requirements, and sanitation requirements must also be followed. For outdoor social gatherings, no gathering larger than 20 people is allowed, social distancing must be maintained between individuals and household groups, and “if singing or projecting of voice, then a minimum of ten feet between each person” must be maintained.

Finally, the attachment provides additional guidance for religious services. For indoor services, “no gathering larger than 20 people is allowed, which includes the minimum number of necessary personnel or volunteers to facilitate the service, or 25 percent maximum occupancy as required by law (whichever is smaller).” Six-foot distancing must be maintained between non-household members, and “at gatherings including non-household members, fabric face coverings must be worn, when possible.” “If in-person services (instead of livestream or drive-in services discussed in Health Alert 10) are held,” the attachment describes additional requirements for a mitigation plan, entry and signage requirements, and sanitation protocols. For outdoor services, gatherings are also capped at 20 individuals, and social distancing must be maintained between individuals and household groups. Social distance of at least six feet must be maintained between individuals and groups of non-household members. If [there is to be] singing or projecting of voice, then a minimum of ten feet between each person is required.


Critical information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs.

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Russell Buhite Health Care & Disability Attorney
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With 32 years of experience as a trial attorney, Russell Buhite is a nationally-recognized defense counsel representing life, health and disability insurance companies and benefit plans in litigation and rendering of client advice on both ERISA and non-ERISA matters pending in federal and state courts across the country.  He is a member of the life, health, and disability committee of Defense Research Institute (DRI) as well as a former national chair of the American Bar Association TIPS section’s Health and Disability Insurance Committee and of the Healthcare Reform Task Force.  He has...

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