By Melinda Munson

The assembly voted five to one to immediately repeal Resolution 20-44R, which required Skagway arrivals coming from communities with active COVID-19 cases to social distance until a negative COVID-19 test was procured seven days after arrival. Those who did want to test for the coronavirus were asked to practice strict social distancing for 14 days.

The resolution was passed on Dec.17, 2020, before most Skagway adults had access to the COVID-19 vaccine. It was sponsored by Assemblymember Reba Hylton, chair of the Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

Resolution 21-07R, which ends the testing and self isolation mandate, originally stated the repeal would take effect on April 16, a date Hylton said was a compromise for parents worried about their children finishing the school year in-person.

She noted she would feel comfortable with a more timely repeal date as Skagway City School currently requires staff and students who return to town to stay out of school until they receive two negative tests, at least seven days apart.

“The school is not going to change their policy,” Hylton said.

Assemblymember Sam Bass urged the assembly to cancel Resolution 20-44R immediately, stating that Skagway has achieved necessary numbers for herd immunity.

Assembly Steve Burnham disagreed with Bass’ interpretation of herd immunity, based on an approximation of 800 Skagway residents.

“That is not a static number. It’s a number that will change…” Burnham said, pointing out that the addition of seasonal workers and visitors could drastically alter the percentage of people in town who are vaccinated.

The municipality received a stack of correspondence regarding the repeal of Resolution 20-44R, a vast majority in support of moving forward with ending testing and self-isolation requirements.

Mayor Andrew Cremata, who has approached COVID-19 with a “better safe than sorry attitude” was in support of a speedy repeal.

“We need to send a clear message that Skagway is ready for visitors. Indeed, the Save Our Skagway program depends on it. If we wait another month to repeal, few people are going to make travel plans because they won’t know whether the assembly will continue to extend the end date,” he said.

Assemblymember Dustin Stone, who kept his bed and breakfast, At the White House, mostly closed as a precaution against COVID-19, described the decision as being between a rock and a hard place, knowing that local businesses need visitors to stay afloat. 

“In my opinion, it’s time to move forward with this calculated risk. It’s for survival at this point,” he said.

Assemblymember Burnham emphasized that the Emergency Operations Center still has the power to enact emergency measures.

Cremata assented.

“We are still in a state of emergency. They are still a nimble body and have full authority to implement pretty much anything related to these issues,” he said.