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Today, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced an emergency declaration in response to COVID-19. The declaration is effective immediately to protect and preserve public health and safety.

The declaration allows the Municipality, through the Office of Emergency Management, to request assistance from the State of Alaska, including funds, services or materials deemed necessary to meet needs stemming from COVID-19. In addition, the declaration allows the Mayor to implement measures necessary to prevent the spread of disease, and to mitigate its effects. The Anchorage Assembly will review the proclamation at a public meeting today.

“The COVID-19 virus poses a grave threat to our community and to communities across the world,” said Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. “Our strategy is to prepare and to position our resources to slow its advance and to minimize its effects. I want to emphasize that just as the virus poses a threat to each of us, all of us have a role in protecting ourselves and each other. We are in this together and will get through it together.”

The Unified Command at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) continues to assess potential scenarios as a result of COVID-19. EOC personnel have planned various measures to protect community members across Anchorage, including our most vulnerable residents. The Municipality is also readying its continuity of operations plans for critical police, fire, emergency medical, street clearance, utility and other essential functions.

Anchorage’s emergency response to COVID-19 is informed by the best public health information available and guided by experts in our health department and throughout our community, which routinely trains for and responds to infectious disease within our community.

Natasha Pineda, the Director of the Anchorage Health Department explains, “From a public health perspective, our efforts now are about ‘flattening the curve.’ It is critical that we position our community so that our local hospitals and clinics don’t become overwhelmed—we’re seeing now what it looks like when the capacities of a healthcare system are exhausted in other parts of the world. Anchorage has it within its power to avoid that fate, through early community mitigation. The good news is that this virus needs people to spread, and we can blunt its progress. The Mayor and I call on all members of the Anchorage community to do their part.”

Adapted from CDC/The Economist

There are important steps to protect our public health and simple things we can do to keep our community safe. The Anchorage Health Department (AHD) suggests that community members frequently practice basic steps to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses including:

Strongly consider postponing large events or gatherings.

If you are an individual at increased risk for severe illness, including older adults and persons of any age with underlying health conditions, avoid large crowds.

If you have signs of fever, shortness of breath, or cough, call your health care provider.

· Social distancing: maintain a distance of at least 6 feet apart from others.

· Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

· Avoid touching face, eyes, nose, and mouth.

· Avoid contact with people who are sick.

· Stay home and avoid others when sick.

· Cover mouth and nose with tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

· Avoid handshakes, hugs, and other close contact.

· Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

As we work through this public health threat, please remember that social distancing does not mean isolation, or that you’re stuck indoors. Keep going for walks, sledding and other outdoor activities that help boost your well-being. Applying good social distancing will help our vulnerable neighbors and friends. If you find yourself in need of mental health support, get the help you need. Resources are available for those affected by this crisis by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or you can text TalkWithUs to 66746. People with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call 1-800-985-5990.

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