By Melinda Munson

Resolution 20-44R, a measure which requires either COVID-19 testing or strict isolation for all travellers coming into Skagway, passed with four aye votes and two nay votes at the Dec.17, 2020 borough meeting.

The resolution pertains to travellers coming from communities with one or more active cases of COVID-19. It places persons disembarking in Skagway into two groups: those who have been in communities (with an active case) for 72 hours or less and those who have been in communities (with an active case) for over 72 hours.

Travellers in the first group must test for COVID-19 with a molecular test seven days after arriving in Skagway and follow strict social distancing guidelines until a negative result is obtained. 

Travellers in the second group must test for COVID-19 with a molecular test within 72 hours of departing for Skagway and test again seven days after arrival.

Those who cannot get tested before disembarking in Skagway should get a COVID-19 test within 48 hours of arrival. Strict social distancing is required until a negative test is obtained.

All travellers have the option of foregoing testing and instead social distancing for 14 days. 

Social distancing is defined in section four of the resolution. Outdoor public spaces such as hiking trails are permitted if individuals who are distancing wear a cloth face covering over the mouth and nose and remain six feet away from non-household members. Social distancers cannot enter buildings such as restaurants, stores, bars or gyms. They should not participate in group activities including weddings, funerals or sporting events.

Assemblymember Dustin Stone, one of the aye votes, said the mandate will assist him when he tells out-of-town callers not to visit his bed and breakfast, At The White House. 

He shared an experience where a woman from New York called three times, hoping to book a room for a Christmas get-away.

“There are still tourists who are trying to come who do not care about the travel restrictions…” Stone said.

“This mandate at least gives us a little more to work with. It’s a lot easier for me as the operator of a hotel to say here is this mandate the municipality has. If you are not an essential worker or you’re not planning on following these quarantine mandates, then you’re not able to come,” Stone said.

Assemblymember Sam Bass and Steve Burnham, the two opposing votes, each had different reasons for voting against the legislation.

“Freedom to control our own bodies is the very foundation of liberty and should only be infringed upon during the most dire of circumstances, if ever,” Bass said.

He was also concerned that visiting critical workers would be hampered by the resolution.

Borough Manager Brad Ryan said the municipality would continue to help critical workers follow common sense mitigation plans.

While the resolution is now temporary municipal law, 20-44R carries no penalty. 

“It is a mandate in name only,” Burnham said.

“The EOC (Emergency Operations Center) has done a great job for Skagway during this pandemic — I don’t believe that the assembly should be implementing testing mandates that are not able to be enforced,” he said.

Resolution 20-44R will remain in place until the borough’s March 16, 2020 emergency declaration is rescinded, or the assembly votes to repeal the mandate.

According to the resolution’s sponsor, Assemblymember Reba Hylton, the Health, Education and Welfare Committee will discuss possible ammendments to the mandate at its next meeting.