Alaska requiring negative COVID-19 test results from non-resident travellers
'We just want to make sure that we are taking care of Alaskans first,' says governor
Non-resident travellers to Alaska will need to show they tested negative for COVID-19 shortly before arriving to the state, as part of an effort aimed at minimizing cases and preserving testing supplies and protective gear, says Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
"We're not trying to make this difficult for folks to come here," Dunleavy said during a Tuesday evening news conference. "We just want to make sure that we are taking care of Alaskans first."
The changes take effect Aug. 11 and will require non-residents arrive with negative results from a test taken 72 hours before they arrive. Dunleavy said enforcement details are being worked out.
Currently, travellers have several testing options, including taking a test within three to five days of leaving for Alaska, and being tested at an airport location when they arrive in the state. Those opting not to get tested can quarantine for 14 days, during which they can only leave their location for medical emergencies or necessary medical care.
But under the new protocols, quarantine will no longer be an option for non-resident travellers, Dunleavy said.
"We feel it's best to just go straight to a testing approach that requires folks coming in to have a negative [test result]," he said.
Some people will say this is a burden or problematic, he said.
"There's no doubt that every aspect of our lives is going to be impacted by this virus, including travel," Dunleavy said.
Alaska residents can still get tested at airports, he said.
Dr. Anne Zink, the state's chief medical officer, said there has been a "rapid increase" in new COVID-19 cases among residents and non-residents. Travel does not appear to be the main driver of the recent increase in cases among Alaska residents, according to a presentation she gave Tuesday.
People in their 20s account for many of the new cases among residents, with cases among residents in their 20s and 30s having increased, according to the presentation.
Zink urged residents to avoid large gatherings, particularly those indoors; to wear face coverings in public, particularly when near others; and to wash their hands as a way to slow the virus's spread.
The state has reported more than 2,700 cases of COVID-19 in residents and more than 600 in non-residents. It also has reported 22 COVID-19-related deaths.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.