Alaska reported 502 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The continuing high number of cases over the previous weeks prompted Gov. Mike Dunleavy to implore Alaskan people to remain diligent until a vaccination is mass produced.
“Wear masks when and where possible, and I know this whole mask issue has become very problematic. There’s nobody and I’m certain about this, there is nobody that dislikes wearing a mask more than I do,” said Dunleavy. “But I am willing to change my life a little bit if it’s going to give us a little more time for these therapeutics and these vaccinations to come on the horizon.”
Dunleavy repeatedly said that if Alaskans are not more diligent about their behaviors and numbers of positive cases continue to be near 500, hospital capacity would begin to dwindle. Alaska has had 17,597 residents test positive for COVID-19 with 1,102 nonresidents also testing positive. There are 94 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and another 15 hospitalized that are awaiting test results. There have been 84 deaths due to COVID-19 in Alaska and 11.2 percent of all hospitalizations in Alaska are attributed to COVID-19.
“There are some things that are happening that are concerning and we’re going to need your help and like you, I’m tired of this whole pandemic situation. Like you, I’m watching and reading contradictory information almost every day. Like you, I’m tired of the politicization of this pandemic,” said Dunleavy. “We’re at the point now that we have to realize that letting down our guard and acting like it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. As a matter of fact, it’s ending up infecting more of us so what I’m going to ask you to do as we go into the next two to three months and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This has been a tough year for everybody, for the economy, for our society for individuals for families, for seniors, for elders, but what we need to do is work together again. I’m imploring Alaskans, and that’s what this discussion is about, that we need to rethink and reestablish a little bit of vigilance.”
Dunleavy used driving on a snowy highway in the dark as a metaphor, asking that Alaskans “drive to conditions.” Dunleavy implored that businesses and churches require mask usage and wear masks whenever possible and insisted that local municipalities have the control to mandate masks if they so choose, but he would not issue a statewide mandate. Dunleavy also said that he has been in ongoing discussions with members of the Legislature whom he hopes will call themselves into a special session to issue a second Declaration of Emergency on November 16 after the current declaration expires on November 15.
“Given the rise in cases and given the uncertainty over the next two to three months, I’m asking, and I will extend this declaration on November 16 at 12:01 a.m. I continue to work with the Legislature and will do so to see if we can get a session called by the legislature so that we can act upon this,” said Dunleavy. “I believe it’s in the best interest of Alaska to declare a new emergency for 30 days. Not a year, not two years, a limited amount of time to give us an opopurnty to every day take a look at where this virus is going and what we need, but again it’s not going to be the declaration of emergency that’s going to put an end to this virus. It’s going to be our behavior that’s going to buy us a little more time over the next two to three months.”
Of the 17,597 resident cases in Alaska, 11,037 of them remain active. There were 65 new cases in the Mat-Su on Friday, bringing the total to 1,796 Valley residents that have tested positive with 27 total nonresident cases. Of those that have tested positive, 1,242 remain active and eight people are currently hospitalized at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center due to COVID-19. There have been 29 cumulative hospitalizations of Valley residents and three have died. There are only two Intensive Care Unit beds available out of 14. The entire state of Alaska is in the high alert level, calculated by the case rate over the last 14 days per 100,000 residents. The Mat-Su has a case rate of 53.42 which is third highest in the state behind the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and Anchorage. Dunleavy said that he would not support additional travel restrictions but noted continued protocols put in place by airlines themselves. Dunleavy also asked Alaskans not to gather in large groups over the holiday season.
“I’m asking people to not congregate in groups in numbers of 20 or 30 inside people’s homes, and I understand that’s a lot to ask and I know there will be people that say you don’t have the right to ask that. I’m asking it. I’m asking it because we’ve got to slow this down,” said Dunleavy. “I’m asking you. I’m imploring you that we all need to do a little better including myself when it comes to wearing a mask, when it comes to business via distance, when it comes to limiting my interaction with others because right now this is the tool that we have before the vaccinations come into mass production.”