Alaska governor defends virus strategy amid criticism


JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy faces criticism from throughout the political spectrum for his dealing with of COVID-19, from those that assume he’s not doing sufficient to deal with rising case counts to those that assume he’s been overreaching in his strategy.

He issued a brand new catastrophe declaration, which took impact Monday, regardless of questions from some lawmakers about its authorized underpinnings. He has declined requests to difficulty a statewide masks mandate however mentioned he helps communities which have them. He has urged calm in asking Alaskans to take precautions however final week, amid what he known as an escalating disaster, issued his name for residents “to sacrifice a bit extra by altering your every day routines” through the state’s emergency alert system.

Dunleavy’s spokesperson, Jeff Turner, mentioned the Republican governor “felt compelled to succeed in out to Alaskans in essentially the most direct manner potential to induce motion to maintain Alaskans protected.”

For some, it landed with a thud. Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, mentioned it was attention-getting however lacked substance.

“It simply irritates me that he makes use of a useful resource like this, for earthquake-type bulletins, to only say extra of the identical,” he mentioned.

Dunleavy, below menace of an ongoing recall effort fueled final yr by proposed price range cuts, in an enchantment to Alaskans earlier this month mentioned he, “such as you,” is uninterested in the pandemic and its politicization and doesn’t “wish to be advised what to do.”

“I contemplate us to be the freest state within the nation, in so many respects. And I’m eternally grateful for that. However this pandemic doesn’t care about any of that stuff,” he mentioned.

In an interview with The Related Press, Dunleavy mentioned he tries to get “as many information factors as potential” in making choices on how one can tackle COVID-19.

“I discuss to the medical neighborhood. I discuss to the scientific neighborhood, the enterprise neighborhood. I discuss with governors,” he mentioned. “ … Everyone seems to be in search of that one place that’s doing it, quote, proper, and fairly actually it doesn’t exist.”

“You do one of the best you possibly can,” he mentioned. “You attempt to get as a lot info as potential.”

He mentioned his job as governor is to ensure Alaska’s public well being, regulation enforcement and different techniques are intact. The state has labored to deal with points equivalent to testing, hospital beds and protecting gear however a problem extra just lately has been that the virus is “dousing us now in such numbers” that it’s affecting well being care employees and members of the armed providers and regulation enforcement, he mentioned.

The state well being division has mentioned hospital capability and staffing are considerations as hospitalizations for COVID-19 rise. For the reason that begin of the pandemic, the division has reported 23,240 confirmed resident instances. Of these, about 16,600 are thought-about energetic instances. The division says there have been 98 deaths associated to COVID-19.

For most individuals, the coronavirus causes gentle or average signs. For some, particularly older adults and other people with present well being issues, it might probably trigger extra extreme sickness and dying.

Sen. David Wilson, a Republican from Wasilla, mentioned Dunleavy has accomplished pretty effectively in his dealing with of the virus. He mentioned there’s no must stay in worry however “we nonetheless need to take common precautions,” and he thinks the Dunleavy administration’s messaging has been constant.

He mentioned he didn’t see how a statewide masks mandate might be enforced.

However Rep. Zack Fields, an Anchorage Democrat, mentioned if Dunleavy have been to difficulty a statewide mandate it might “depoliticize masks amongst that fringe group that has been most proof against sporting them.” Masks are to be worn at state amenities, and a few communities mandate masks in sure settings.

The administration additionally may do extra to assist folks perceive transmission dangers indoors, Fields mentioned.

Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold has been a outstanding critic of Dunleavy, saying in a current Fb submit that he “desires us to dramatically change our lives” to assist frontline employees who “have supposedly been gearing as much as handle sufferers all yr.” She has accused administration officers of worry mongering.

Dunleavy introduced earlier this month his plans to difficulty a brand new catastrophe declaration when the one permitted by lawmakers expired Sunday. Legislative leaders indicated that lawmakers didn’t have the votes to name themselves right into a particular session however urged Dunleavy to train his energy to name a particular session. The brand new declaration is meant to final 30 days.

Dunleavy mentioned having the current elections out of the way in which may enable for higher deal with the problem of a potential particular session. “We’ll interact of us and see what the temperature is in having folks go all the way down to Juneau before later to cope with this,” he mentioned.

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