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City of Nome’s Emergency Ordinance Extended, Travel Form Expected to Be Revised

Double doors with a small placard reading "Council Chambers."
The entrance to the Nome City Council chambers. Photo: Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM.

Nome’s Emergency Ordinance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 has been extended for another 60 days. Although it renews limited authorities of the city and city manager, some have been left out of this ordinance like the ability to suspend the sale of alcohol in Nome.

All six Nome City Councilmembers were present either in-person or telephonically for last night’s regular meeting. While adhering to quarantine requirements after his recent travel, City Manager Glenn Steckman called into the meeting to touch on the travel aspects of the emergency ordinance.

“I will let you all know that if you are going to approve this tonight, we are changing the travel form. I also want to let everybody know that there really has never been a ban on travel to Nome, as we have followed the state guideline on that.”

The current state travel mandate requires those coming into Alaska from outside the state to either quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival, or take a COVID-19 test when they arrive at their destination and then quarantine for seven days before taking a second test with both results being negative.

For intrastate travelers who are traveling to Nome or somewhere off the road system, and are not traveling for Essential Services/Critical Infrastructure or Critical Personal Needs, the state mandates that they must follow local travel restrictions. If you are an Alaska resident who has traveled outside of the state for five days or less, the state says you must still either quarantine for 14 days or take a COVID-19 test and have a negative result before quarantining for 7 days and then getting a second test.

The City of Nome and Norton Sound Health Corporation continue to work together to offer free COVID-19 testing at the Nome airport for residents or travelers coming into the city.

None of those travel restrictions were changed by the city council’s emergency ordinance from last night as the state’s travel mandate is still in effect. According to Steckman, one authority that was altered during the regular meeting was originally included as a precautionary measure.

“Where they [in Anchorage] are seeing the outbreak of the virus has been in bars and restaurants. And while the authority is there, it is not right now to be used unless we started seeing outbreaks in bars and restaurants [in Nome].”

It was suggested by multiple people, including Councilmember Mark Johnson, that the provision specifically allowing the city and city manager to limit or suspend sales of alcohol was too much.

“And I think we’ve more or less come to the conclusion that if we need to do something in the future then we could come back and discuss that and make a decision at that time, rather than putting something so encompassing now that makes it look like or feel like we are overreaching basically, in an areas where we don’t really need to at this time.”

The specific line within the proposed ordinance dealing with alcohol sales, Section E, was removed from the final ordinance by a vote of four to two. Councilmembers Megan Topkok and Doug Johnson voted against removing Section E from the ordinance. The final motion to extend this emergency ordinance as amended, through September 11th, was passed unanimously.

Not everyone in attendance at last night’s meeting was in favor of continuing the ordinance. A couple people sent letters opposing the extension of the emergency authority; while one citizen, John Schneider, urged the city to allow the residents of Nome to live their lives as normal as possible.

“I would suggest that the city ensure that testing is available in Nome, to allow the use of the state issued testing voucher so that the process can be completed as mandated by state regulation. Finally, the travel permits need to be eliminated. This permitting process creates a lot of confusion and consumes unnecessary amounts of time. It serves no useful purpose in the current environment and cannot be used in any way for contact tracing as that falls under the responsibility of the State of Alaska Public Health Nursing, in cooperation with the local hospital.”

Despite Schneider’s in-person comments, the majority of the pre-submitted citizens comments were in favor of extending the emergency ordinance. CEO Angie Gorn and Medical Director Mark Peterson of Norton Sound Health Corporation also spoke up in favor of continuing the city’s emergency ordinance.

As it stands today, Nome has an emergency ordinance in place, but the city’s current travel form is expected to be revised in the very near future by the city manager. As Steckman alluded to earlier in the meeting, a future version of this form will most likely remove the requirement of his signature and won’t need approval from other city staff.

UPDATE: KNOM previously incorrectly stated that intrastate travelers must quarantine based on state mandate, when in fact intrastate travelers going to places off of the road system must quarantine based on LOCAL travel restrictions. The correction has been made and we regret the inaccuracy.

Image at top: The entrance to the Nome City Council chambers. Photo: Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM.

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