As positive coronavirus case reports continue to rise in Seward, the city has enacted protocols for all city employees inside municipal facilities and vehicles intended to curb the spread of the virus. With a combined total of 32 new cases on Monday and Tuesday, the city’s current count of presumed active cases has reached 66, 14 more than the November peak that prompted the citywide mask mandate last year. Meanwhile state officials added 12 new deaths on Tuesday, based on the review of death certificates previously not counted as COVID-related. The added numbers bring the state’s current death toll to 397, though none of the additional reported deaths were from the Seward area.

Although officials do not anticipate enacting a public mask mandate, city employees are now required to wear masks at all times in shared areas of municipal buildings. Employees are also required to wear masks whenever more than one person occupies a city vehicle. Employees occupying offices and vehicles alone are not required to wear masks until others are present.

“For instance, I’m here in my office now with no mask on, but if someone were to walk in the door, I’d put my mask on,” said City Manager Janette Bower, “and if it was an employee, they’d have to come in with a mask on as well.”

Additionally, all employees are required to wear masks within six feet of one another, whether working indoors or out.

“If they’re working outside, it’s not mandated unless they’re working together outside, and then it’s six feet,” Bower said.

Though mandate does not include the public, masks are encouraged for visitors to city facilities. Bower stated that she does not yet anticipate any public mandates to come forth, but in the event a mandate is necessary, it will likely first apply only to people entering city facilities, as was recently enacted in Soldotna, before being extended to all public places.

“I guess we’re really hoping that the cases will go down and we don’t have to do any of that, but we’re watching and seeing,” she said. “Of course, if there’s a mandate that affects the public, it will be voted on by the Council.”

Bower went on to say that positive case reports will be monitored in the coming weeks, and if further action is necessary, it will likely come before City Council at its next meeting on Sep. 13.

“We’re do our part to reduce the spread, and we want to keep our employees healthy so that we can keep city services going,” Bower said. “That’s our plan.”

The Seward Community Health Center (SCHC) is currently offering free drive-through coronavirus testing on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the end of August, with a further extension to be assessed at the end of the month. The SCHC also offers all three approved vaccines free by appointment. Call (907) 224-2273.