As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues new masking guidance for vaccinated individuals and the state opens up COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone 16 and up, Haines is loosening its pandemic restrictions.

On Tuesday, the Haines Borough Assembly met in-person for the first time since last summer, and on Monday, interim manager Alekka Fullerton reversed a longstanding order requiring masking in borough facilities, citing the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) decision to downgrade the community’s COVID-19 risk level to “low.”

“The EOC intentionally moved the risk level down, and when I looked at what that means, it means we don’t have a mask mandate in the Haines Borough,” Fullerton said, referencing a July 30 EOC document that identifies COVID-19 mitigation measures for various levels of outbreak including low risk (0-1 active cases), medium risk (2-5 active cases), medium-high risk (6-8 active cases) and high risk (9 or more active cases).

Fullerton noted that the decision could be reversed if the community’s case levels begin to rise. As of Wednesday afternoon, the borough had no active cases.

Fullerton said she’d noticed a recent decline in mask compliance in borough facilities and said moving forward, she thinks the community’s best bet for keeping case numbers low is through vaccinations.

As of Tuesday morning, 1,114 in the Chilkat Valley had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Nine-hundred and seventy-six are fully vaccinated.

The assembly’s CARES Act ad hoc committee will meet March 18 to review the borough’s COVID-19 emergency declaration and consider new travel recommendations proposed by the EOC that exempt those who are fully vaccinated from testing.

The loosening of pandemic restrictions comes as the community prepares for the 2021 tourism season. While news of a continued Canadian port closure has dimmed hopes for a bustling tourism economy this year, state and federal officials are trying to find a work-around to allow large ships to enter Alaska, and small cruise lines, not impacted by the port closure, have said they still plan to sail. At Tuesday’s assembly meeting, members approved a resolution encouraging ships of all sizes to come to Haines.