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Council Mandates Nome Bars Close, Cabs Limit Passengers, and Public Gatherings Cap at 10

Pints of beer at a bar
Photo: Phil Dragash, Creative Commons.

All Nome bars will be closed to on-site consumption starting midnight tonight. That means bars may offer “to-go” service, but patrons won’t be allowed to sit inside and drink.

The Nome Common Council made that decision official during an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon after hearing public comments and medical advice calling for the closures.

Dr. Mark Peterson, the Medical Director at Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC), spoke at the Council’s invitation. Even though he did not say directly that part of Nome’s current outbreak of COVID-19 is related to a bar, he did say that it came from a “gathering.”

“Anything that we can do to limit the spread of that could be helpful.”

– Dr. Mark Peterson of NSHC

Peterson said that NSHC continues to identify positive cases of COVID-19 in Nome. There were no reported cases for Tuesday because a snowstorm in Nome and the region prevented most testing from taking place.

Bars will not be the only local organizations impacted. A new ordinance passed by the City Manager on Wednesday will limit public gatherings to ten people or fewer. Taxi rides will also be limited to one household at a time. Grocery stores are exempt from the ten-person rule. 

That came partially at the request of Councilmember Mark Johnson who suggested that the city examine other locations that could be “super-spreader” sites, like local churches.

“I had a couple calls from bar-owners yesterday feeling like everyone wants to ‘pitch-in’ to curve this, where we’re at with short term closures, and that should include other gatherings, as well.”

– Councilmember Mark Johnson

Most churches in Nome have already switched to distance services without any mandates from the city. Those include St. Joe’s Catholic Church, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, and the Community United Methodist Church. Dine-in services at Nome restaurants were also closed by emergency order on Tuesday evening.

Nome’s only cab company, Checker Cab, operates almost like a city bus by picking up multiple parties at once along its route. Dr. Peterson recommends their service be limited to one household in a cab at a time. Councilmember Doug Johnson said that that’s a normal practice for most cab companies across the country.

“You hire a cab that takes you where you want to go and somebody else hires a cab and it takes them where they want to go. They don’t go around and collect fifteen riders and fifteen fares in one ride.”

– Councilmember Doug Johnson

The local closures are slated to last until at least December 13th when the Nome Common Council can re-evaluate the decision during their next regular meeting.

Image at top: Pints of beer in a bar. Phil Dragash, Creative Commons.

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