The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday night approved a request from Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration for $ 2.65 million to fully restore COVID-19 test levels after city health officials said ‘A lack of funding has resulted in reduced hours and a shift in focus at city-controlled testing locations.
The mayor’s administration requested the additional funding Tuesday in an emergency ordinance that passed 9-2. Assembly members Jamie Allard and Crystal Kennedy voted against the ordinance after it was amended to change the source of funding for the region-wide capital improvement projects fund – proposed by the Bronson administration – to the region-wide general fund, which was nominated by Assembly members Meg Zaletel, Austin Quinn-Davidson and Forrest Dunbar. It wasn’t immediately clear how this change might affect the city’s testing plan.
The additional funding would fill a gap resulting from a dramatic increase in COVID-19 testing since mid-summer, Anchorage Department of Health Director Joe Gerace said recently. The daily number of cases in Anchorage has reached new pandemic highs in the current outbreak, and more cases have been identified as more people have requested testing with widespread viral transmission.
Gerace said existing funding for virus testing would not last until the end of October if testing levels continued at the same rate, which is why the city is now emphasizing that its contract sites managed by Visit Healthcare are intended for use “only by people with COVID-19 symptoms or close contacts of a COVID-19 case. Other testing locations remain available to the public, and a spokesperson for the health department of the ville has said that those looking for tests that do not meet these criteria will not be turned down.
The weekend and Monday test sites in Anchorage saw long lines, especially at the popular drive-thru site at Loussac Library, which had more than a dozen cars lined up a hour before its opening Monday.
As of last Friday, the city slashed the testing schedule by 108 hours per week at its sites, including the Loussac Library, Changepoint Church and Muldoon Community Assembly. This step was also necessary to help maintain testing for the rest of the month, Gerace said.
The additional funding is expected to restore testing to previous levels through the end of November, according to Bronson spokesman Corey Allen Young.
The question of where the extra money for the city’s testing should come from has sparked debate between members of the Assembly and officials in the Bronson administration. CFO Travis Frisk has discouraged Assembly members from switching funding sources, saying the original proposal was “the only way to continue testing beyond the 18th.” He cited the slow rate of reimbursement from FEMA – the costs of COVID-19 tests are reimbursable by the federal government – and the potential impacts on the deficit of unallocated funds as reasons to find funds from the improvement projects fund. region-wide capital assets. But Quinn-Davidson and others questioned his characterization of both the city’s financial outlook and the availability of funds in the region’s general fund, which they described as the “savings account.” of the city which can be used if necessary in an emergency.
A motion supported by Kennedy and Allard to postpone a vote on the emergency order for two to three days to allow a special meeting failed, 9-2.