MAT-SU — As Alaska’s COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, Anchorage has opted to restrict indoor dining in restaurants and bars while other large event gatherings are moving out to the Mat-Su Valley. Alaska currently has more than 3,300 total and 2,300 active coronavirus cases.
“As far as the city of Palmer is, I think we’re doing pretty well,” said Palmer Mayor Edna DeVries.”I don’t’ think we have that influx from Anchorage bringing any kind of exposure back into the Valley and I guess of course my philosophy is different than what the Mayor in Anchorage’s is. Give the people an opportunity to be careful and to regulate themselves and I think you saw that with the protest as well as with the freedom festival. People were taking their social distancing very seriously.”
Palmer’s Community Development building was shut down out of caution after employees inside the building tested positive for COVID-19. The Mat-Su currently has 305 cumulative cases of COVID-19 with 234 of those active. Anchorage has 3,341 total cases with 2,370 of those active. Anchorage’s seven day average is at 71.57 while the Mat-Su average is 9.86 cases per day. The Mat-Su’s highest number of total positive tests in the last week was on July 31 with 20 new cases reported. On July 20, Anchorage reported 110 new cases. On July 4, Mayor Vern Halter’s Ordinance 20-061 to move to a first class borough was postponed to January. As a second class borough, the Mat-Su has no health powers and cannot mandate bars, restaurants or masks as Anchorage does. Wasilla began requiring masks in City Hall on Friday and Mayor Bert Cottle said that he suggested that Gov. Mike Dunleavy mandate masks in areas with spiking numbers.
“I think the Governor at that point needs to step in because the 25,000 square miles that we have in the Mat-Su Borough, less than 50 are controlled by cities,” said Cottle. “I’ll use [Knik-Goose Bay Road], I’ve got 30,000 some people living down KGB that affect my numbers for the city of Wasilla and I have no control over what happens down that KGB road. That’s the governor’s jurisdiction because the Mat-Su Borough doesn’t have medical powers.”
In Wasilla, 129 of the 169 total cases are listed as active while 76 of the 96 total cases in Palmer are listed as active. Cottle takes issue with cases attributed to Wasilla zip codes that are not actually located inside city limits and outside of city jurisdiction.
“I know the governor says he wants people to make local decisions but if you don’t have the authority to make local decisions, they’re not going to get made,” said Palmer Manager John Moosey.