Mayor sees business-owners as vital link in Covid risk management

May 5, 2020

Mayor Ken Castner
Credit KBBI

   Just a week into Governor Mike Dunleavy’s relaxing of his business-closing mandates in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and three new cases of Covid-19 have been identified in Homer.
    As more people from Outside come to Alaska in an attempt to flee the infection, some may be bringing it with them, and Homer Mayor Ken Castner is concerned not all are taking the 14-day self-quarantine seriously.
    “I think that the governor's right to loosen things up, but people need to comply with the mandates. And so if you lose some things, you just can't say, ‘Well, I like that, but I don't like having to comply,’” Castner said. “I'm getting a lot of that, about the quarantining for people coming from out of state, ‘We like coming, we want to come back to Homer. But we want to do it on our own terms. We just want to get to Homer and start, you know, going fishing and going to restaurants and things like that and not do a quarantine -- when, when can we come up without quarantining?’ And I mean, it's an unhappy discussion because it's a risk management thing.”
    He said the governor’s reopening plan really only works if Alaskans participate.
    “Governor's approach to this, and I agree with him, and this is an approach of education. And he believes that Alaskans will abide by it and insist upon it from people coming from out of state,” Castner said. “And if we don't insist upon it then, then we're just going to be back to last summer. You know, we're just going to say we're opening it up. You know, it's going to be spring break times 1,000; We will not be able to protect ourselves over the summer.”
    Castner went on to say how business people in Homer can help keep their -- and the whole town’s -- doors open.
    “And part of the protocol is that there's a question period there where you say, where'd you come from? What are you doing? Do you realize that you need to be in quarantine? I can't take you fishing tomorrow cause you're supposed to be in quarantine. You can't have your hair cut tomorrow cause you're supposed to be in quarantine. You can't come to my restaurant tomorrow because you're supposed to be in quarantine. And there's a, um, a questioning sort of a thing,” Castner said. “And so if the Alaskans don't enforce that, if the businesses don't enforce that, I think that the enforcement action will be to close them down. Not to start, you know, looking for untraceable people that came in here with the virus or without the virus or, but are breaking the quarantine rules.”
    And while Castner hopes local businesses ask the tough questions of potential patrons, and he endorses the governor’s reopening plan, he doesn’t let the state completely off the hook.
    “I endorse it, but you know, obviously the mayors in the state of Alaska are going to rebel if  everybody just starts coming here without any restrictions and without any screening," he said, "and the best screening right now that we know about is the quarantining.”
    Governor Dunleavy’s re-opening mandate will be reviewed next week, and if cases around the state have not increased appreciably, further relaxations may be enacted.