Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Southeast Conference plans for inperson event


August 19, 2021

The regional business meeting Southeast Conference, scheduled to take place in Haines in mid-September, is still on schedule, said executive director Robert Venables.

“Today’s answer is we’re still coming,” Venables said this week. “Unless there is different word from the borough, our hope and prayers are that this latest spike comes down as fast as it went up.”

More than 70 people tested positive for the COVID-19 virus in less than two weeks after the Southeast Alaska State Fair brought hundreds into the community. As of Wednesday evening, there were 47 active cases and no hospitalizations.

“I think by and large the fair went very well. I think the after-hour activity is what contributed to the community spread that was seen,” Venables said.

Cases are rising across Southeast including in Wrangell, Skagway and Ketchikan.

He said Southeast Conference staff are working with the fair staff to ensure mitigations are in place based on “lessons learned.” Roughly 200 people have registered to attend the conference in Haines that’s scheduled to be Tuesday, Sept. 14 through Thursday, Sept. 16. They’ve rented Harriett Hall for the conference location. Fair staff did not reply to questions by presstime.

“The basics are encouraging masks throughout,” he said. “We’ve been promoting vaccinations as the number one tool for reopening the economy since day one. It’s making opportunities like this safe to attend.”

Less than 1% of vaccinated people become hospitalized or die if they become infected with the COVID-19 virus and its delta variant. Breakthrough cases in respect to the delta variant are becoming more common among the vaccinated, but symptoms are typically mild, according to health officials.

The conference will bring speakers to address a variety of regional economic topics, transportation being a main subject of discussion, Venables said, including how the federal infrastructure bill that passed the Senate last week will impact Southeast and the Alaska Marine Highway System.

“A lot of topics will have a nexus with the infrastructure bill so we want to dive into what that means for the region and the community.”

Haines Borough tourism director Steven Auch said conference attendees are seeking rooms as hotel and motel space is unavailable.

“We’ve been trying to keep track of rooms available. Right now, we’re running pretty low based on what we’re expecting in terms of registrants,” Auch said. “We’re not going to have enough rooms based on what businesses have told they have available.”

Interim borough manager Alekka Fullerton said the EOC plans to propose testing strategies as a mitigation measure, but has yet to reach out to Venables.

“We’re putting together a proposal that we want to touch base with Southeast Conference about, but we haven’t made contact yet.”


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