Quarantine, test or just stay home?
Alaska’s travel mandates seek to contain the coronavirus, but mostly, it’s just confusing
July 1, 2020
Since the end of March, Alaska has been under a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone entering the state. Under that regulation, titled “Health Mandate 10.1 - International and Interstate Travel - Order for Self Quarantine,” individuals arriving in Alaska from domestic or international communities were required to isolate away from the general public for 14 days. Inbound travelers were also supposed to fill out a Traveler Declaration Form provided by the state upon arrival, outlining quarantine plans, and listing a contact number during that 14-day time period. It was an effort to contain the coronavirus and “flatten the curve” in Alaska to preserve valuable hospital beds and health care infrastructure, especially in smaller, rural communities.
All that changed on June 6, 2020, when the baseline two-week quarantine was rescinded, and in its place, several new options for travelers took effect. Additionally, the Municipality of Anchorage also announced its own rules for incoming travelers that look similar to the state’s, but do have a few extra restrictions.
To unpack these new guidelines — which include options for testing Outside or in Alaska — it is important to recognize the overarching facts of increasing COVID-19 case counts. As of June 9, Alaskans infected with the coronavirus totaled 573, according to the State of Alaska’s COVID-19 information page on its website at https://covid19.alaska.gov/.
Below are the current regulations affecting all inbound travelers who arrive in Alaska by air. All travelers should regularly check the State of Alaska’s COVID-19 Information page for any changes or additions to the current mandates before traveling to Alaska.
For all travelers: Upon arrival at your destination originating outside the state of Alaska, you will be required to complete a Traveler Declaration Form, complete with contact information, before you can exit the airport’s terminal. https://bit.ly/3dVD93w
All travelers must also take a second test seven to 14 days after arrival. A voucher for this test is available at Alaska airports. The reason for this second test is to mitigate the chance that a person may become infected while traveling on an aircraft or coming into contact with an infected individual in an airport or some other community-related way, and thus would result in a negative first test.
Pre-travel testing: It is recommended that travelers have a COVID-19 test completed 72 hours prior to boarding a flight to Alaska. Why? So you don’t board an aircraft and potentially transmit the virus to your fellow passengers, for one thing. Also, the availability of rapid-response tests in Alaska airports is not a sure thing (see below). Incoming travelers will need to present a negative test result to airport officials upon arrival. This test is at your expense. Not sure where to take a test for coronavirus? Use this nationwide testing map tool: https://bit.ly/2AiEMd5.
Upon-arrival testing: Upon arrival in Alaska, it is possible to receive a COVID-19 test at the airport, or at a testing site in your arrival city (see this map for locations: https://bit.ly/2MMAD3w). That said, the test may or may not be the rapid-response type, so you’ll need to self-isolate until the results come back. The test is free at the airport, but self-isolating is at your expense.
No testing at all: If you choose not to undergo any sort of COVID-19 testing, you may quarantine for 14 days in a hotel or place of residence. This does not mean you can rent or use your RV to drive from community to community during this time.
Arriving in Anchorage? Know this: The Municipality of Anchorage has added a few other restrictions, including the requirement that visitors or returning travelers not visit restaurants, indoor attractions like museums, gyms or theaters. It also requires that travelers inform hotels of their quarantine status in an effort to achieve “minimal-interaction status.” Read the entire emergency order put in place June 5, 2020 here: https://bit.ly/2UBAFzt.
Of course, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and other communities are for now relying upon voluntary compliance with this mandate, rather than enforcing with fines. The State of Alaska has a helpful list of questions and answers on its website: https://covid19.alaska.gov/faq/
Erin Kirkland is an Anchorage-based freelance writer and editor.