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JBER declares public health emergency to slow spread of coronavirus

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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — U.S. Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and 673d Air Base Wing commander, declared a public health emergency on the installation Nov. 9, 2020, in a unified effort with the Anchorage community and state of Alaska to combat the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. The declaration and associated orders go into effect tonight at midnight.

“Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with both the governor and the mayor after close consultation with JBER mission commanders and leaders both on and off the installation,” Aguilar said. “I have decided to declare a public health emergency.”

Aguilar’s Public Health Emergency Declaration discusses why this order is being made.

The accompanying “Order for Restrictions on Movement and Activities” lays out tightened restrictions to dining-in, installation access, gathering sizes and mask policy. These heightened health measures echo some of the immediate changes to the Municipality of Anchorage emergency order, the recent Matanuska-Susitna Borough directive, and the Alaska governor’s Nov. 6 press briefing.

“We need to rethink and reestablish vigilance over the next two to three months,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said after speaking on the recent and alarming upward trend of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

Aguilar also voiced support for Municipality of Anchorage Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson’s decision to mandate public mask wear. According to the CDC and emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies, a mask or cloth face covering worn over the nose and mouth reduces the spray of respiratory droplets, reducing the spread of the virus when widely used in public settings.

Aguilar’s declaration states that masks are mandatory in all public settings on JBER for anyone over the age of 2 unless a person is alone, outside and distanced from others.

“We have to maintain our vigilance and make responsible decisions to protect ourselves, our families and our community,” Aguilar said.

Although these limitations constrain the way people get together and socialize, Aguilar expressed her confidence in these new health measures in helping slow the rate of infection.

She went on to emphasize the importance of maintaining social connectedness to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and on our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.

“I encourage each of us to find resourceful and safe ways to connect with each other,” Aguilar said. “Hug your family members, laugh with your friends, practice your faith, and keep enjoying the majestic beauty of Alaska.

“Look for opportunities to serve each other and take care of one another,” Aguilar continued. “We will continue to work together as a team. We are stronger together and we will get through this.”

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