Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced that only three more Alaskans tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, but hinted that major changes to reopen Alaska’s economy safely will be unveiled on Wednesday.
“We need to open up,” said Dunleavy. “We’re a free country. We’re a free state. Our numbers are low. The numbers don’t justify us continuing anything but opening up.”
Dunleavy was joined at the first of his three COVID-19 press conferences anticipated for this week by Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink and Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum. Of the three new cases reported on Monday, two were from Anchorage and one case in Willow remains under investigations. No more Alaskans were hospitalized or died due to COVID-19 infection and 345 of the 399 people who have tested positive are listed as recovered from symptoms. A total of 35,611 Alaskans have been tested. Dunleavy said on Monday that he believes Alaska is ready for Phase 3 of reopening.
“Nothing is fool proof with this virus,” said Dunleavy. “The idea is we learn to live with this until ther’s a vaccination and we learn to manage it and not let it manage us.”
Dunelavy said multiple times that more information would be delivered on Wednesday reopening Alaska and allowing for more personal mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but that large gatherings such as concerts would continue to be restricted in some way. Dunleavy said that the current health mandates and advisories would be condensed into a few advisories and that Alaskans should not fear COVID-19, but respect it. Commissioner Crum said that starting on Tuesday, commercial fisherman who are unable to be tested at their final Alaskan destination as they enter Alaska will be testeed at the Anchorage International Airport, which Dunelavy reported was the busiest airport in the world on Friday and Saturday with 1,742 operations in a 48-hour period. Crum reported that commercial fishing partners in Bristol Bay had been informed of the wide variety of rules and regulations and assured Alaskans that he continues to engage in daily conversations with fishermen. Crum said that Bristol Bay has a massive request for Personal Protective Equipment.
“There’s a lot that continues to change and ak continues to open up. I think it’s important to remember that this pandemic is not over and it continues to exist and the personal mitigation strategies that people do and the environmental mitigation strategies are incredibly important,” said Zink.
Zink recalled what Dr. Alexander Eastman from the Department of Homeland Security had told her during his visit to the state, that easy decisions are past and only hard decisions remain. Zink responded to questions about when Alaskans can have dinner with their neighbors and said that the larger Health Mandates that had been released during April were being relaxed to individual members, but stressed that Alaskans must continue to minimize their exposure to others despite the relaxing of travel restrictions. Zink said that Alaskans can ‘double their bubble’ but that exposure to more people shares the risk of infection.
“It’s a way that you can really minimize your interacitons with others and be able to have less social and personal mitigation within that group. It’s kind of a shared risk becuase if one person in that group gets sick, you’re more likely for everyone in that group to get sick,” said Zink.
Zink noted that research suggests that 80 percent of household members in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have gotten sick, but said that a double bubble was a long term solution to support other Alaskans.
Dunelavy briefly touched on the action taken in Juneau by the Legislature on Monday, passing the RPL’s out of committee. Dunleavy said that the approximately $1.2 billion should be voted on for a final time on Wednesday.
“It should be wrapped up and then we can get the money out as soon as possible to Alaskans that need it,” said Dunleavy.