City goes to ‘orange’ alert level

City goes to ‘orange’ alert level, closes library, HERC, Harbormaster Office to public

Following a rise over the past two weeks of COVID-19 cases on the southern Kenai Peninsula, the City of Homer moved its alert level to “orange” last Thursday, prompting the closure of several public facilities.

The Homer Public Library, the Homer Education and Recreation Complex (HERC) and the Harbormaster Office have all been closed to the public. Homer City Hall is open by appointment.

The library will continue to offer services, including curbside checkout, circulating of laptop computers, outdoor WiFi and digital resources. The HERC had been open to reservation-only use, but in-person recreational programs are now suspended. While the closure means the Harbormaster Office won’t admit customers, business can be conducted through the intercom system there.

Homer Public Information Officer Jenny Carroll emphasized that the closure applies only to City of Homer facilities.

“It’s important to know that the city is not closed,” she said. “The primary impact on the public that they would notice from the city’s orange level is the library and the HERC.”

The city uses a different alert level and system than the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. The school district has a green-yellow-red system, and bases its alert levels on cases per 14-day period. The lower peninsula is now in the red zone on that scale, with 32 new COVID-19 cases over the past 14-days, as of Wednesday.

The city has a green-yellow-orange-red scale, with red being the most severe. According to an Oct. 8 memorandum from City Manager Rob Dumouchel to the Homer City Council and Homer Mayor Ken Castner, the city’s model “factors in local context, regional context, and higher level national/global concerns.”

Under the orange level, not only are city facilities closed, but in-person meetings are limited to small numbers of participants with large open spaces, such as garages or the Cowles Council Chambers, or held outdoors. The city’s COVID-19 messaging also suggests that bars, restaurants and other places where people gather consider restricting operations, according to the memo.

As a first-class city, Homer does not have health powers that would allow it to impose restrictions on city residents.

“We cannot direct others to take particular health protection measures,” Dumouchel wrote in the memo. “We can, however, be a good role model for others and strive to provide public information that is clear, accurate, and focused on maintaining health and safety within the community.”

Carroll said city officials made the decision to go to the orange level after meetings on Wednesday, Oct. 28. She said the city hopes to reopen facilities like the HERC and library when the positive COVID-19 numbers drop.

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