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COVID Update: Homer City Council - August 24, 2020

City of Homer

During the COVID-19 Incident Command Report at last night's Homer City Council meeting , Derotha Ferraro from South Peninsula Hospital updated the council with the latest numbers.

"Statewide. We had new today, 71, which brings the Alaska total to 4,810 COVID-19 cases. There have been 114 total to date in our service area. The Southern Peninsula - we've had two new cases in the last week, a total of seven in the last two weeks. At South Peninsula Hospital. So far, we've done 7,400 tests, 7,243 are negative, 113 positive and 117 pending. So we've only had one positive test in the last seven days. That puts our positivity rate very low, under a half percent for the last week," said Ferraro.
The council asked what positivity rate would trigger the school district's  Risk Level: Red phase of their plan, which would close the schools to in-person classes. According to the district's formula,  classes would stop meeting in-person when the positivity rate reached 1.4%, or 20 new identified cases of COVID over 14 days on the Southern Peninsula.
 The District has a page on their website titled, "Will Schools Open?" which tracks the daily positivity rate. Currently, the Central Peninsula is the only region in the red. You can see the numbers, updated daily on the school district's website.
City Attorney Michael Gatti reported to council on his work trying to find legal or statutory support for the City if the council mandated mask wearing. Gatti told council he searched the Alaska Disaster Act, the Alaska Constitution and Homer City Codes but could find no clear, legal grounds to support a City mask mandate. 
“So if the city were inclined to do anything like that, probably the best position would be to adopt some kind of actual ordinances with health powers. Right now, it doesn't appear that there's an express power or an implied power under your current ordinances," Gatti said.
During his report to Council, Mayor Castner spoke about the econominc effects of COVID on the City of Homer.
"In the second quarter, which is one of our larger quarters that we have for bringing in sales tax revenue over the course of time, it's always grown because we have a nice healthy economy going here. So, starting in 2017, there was a 6% increase going into 2018. There was about a 5% increase going into 2019. And then we have an 18% decrease here in COVID times, but if you,  kind of project where we were going on advancement, it was probably something more like a 22% decrease in COVID times. But it's not 50% and it's not 80%. It's a manageable amount of loss, total income," Castner said.
The council also appropriated $60,000 in CARES Act Funds from the State of Alaska for the Homer Chamber of Commerce to continue operations during the pandemic, and $29,000 to fund additional handwashing stations and Porta Potties for the city.

And, Mayor Castner submitted a letter to Senator Dan Sullivan seeking an amendment to the CARES Act that extends the expenditure period into 2021 and new legislation that allows municipalities to fill lost revenues associated with the pandemic. You can access and read that letter on the City of Homer's website.
The next meeting of the Homer City Council is on Monday September 14.

Kathleen Gustafson came to Homer in 1999 and has been involved with KBBI since 2003