By Melinda Munson
When Tim Cochran took his turn at the microphone at Wednesday’s special assembly meeting to address COVID-19, he pointed out that Skagwegians weren’t following protocol.
“They’re saying we’re not supposed to be doing this,” he joked to the large crowd sitting and standing close to one another.
Mayor Andrew Cremata went through the assembly chamber row by row to give residents a chance to comment on the potential threat of COVID-19. Ginny Cochran, otherwise known as Grandma Cochran, told the assembly she didn’t think the senior center should be closed. John Tronrud reminded the room that Skagway was a community, not just a cruise port.
“It’s been a busy couple of weeks,” Cremata commented. Earlier in the day, the assembly participated in a virtual conference with The White House then Governor Dunleavy.
Cremata admitted that while he wasn’t a medical professional, having only dressed up like a doctor once for Halloween, his main goal was for community members to avoid COVID-19 by following Centers for Disease Control Guidelines. His second goal was for any infections to be quickly contained so medical facilities didn’t become overwhelmed and lose the ability to serve patients.
The assembly voted unanimously to form a Impact Mitigation Task Force responsible for understanding the community’s needs and concerns. The following individuals were named to the task force: Jan Wrentmore (food and beverage), Johanna Evans (tourism), Chelsey Stone (accomodations), Josh Coughran (school) and Carol Bourcy (retail).
From information presented in the day’s virtual meetings, Cremata understood officials expected cases to decrease within four to six weeks.
“If those statistics are true, we can salvage at least some part of our tourist season,” Cremata said. Business owners are encouraged to keep records of any lost income due to COVID-19 as future state and federal relief is expected.
“We’re all dealing with a lot of uncertainty,” said assembly member Dustin Stone. In the process of buying a local business, Stone is already feeling the economic effects of the pandemic. “I know this town is going to come together and we’ll figure out how to make this work for us.”
Cremata noted that Skagway’s rainy day fund is secure.
“We’re financially solvent. We’ll be able to gather up the trash before the bears get it,” he said.
Finally, Cremata had a message for cruise ships. “We support you. We have expectations of you…We do want to welcome you.”