Fairbanks health officials on Wednesday rejected Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s argument against implementing a statewide shelter-in-place mandate.
The governor and the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, dismissed such a mandate Tuesday evening, claiming the rule would require individuals to stay in their homes at all times — an interpretation Fairbanks health officials strongly refuted during a meeting with reporters.
“We’re still hopeful that the governor will implement a shelter in place. And just to make it clear, shelter in place doesn’t mean you can’t go outside,” said Jeff Cook, Foundation Health Partners board president.
Foundation Health Partners operates Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Tanana Valley Clinic and Denali Center.
The health care community and local leaders in Fairbanks have been issuing almost daily pleas for members of the public to stay away from each other.
“We are trying in every way possible to get the message out to the community that people need to stay home,” said foundation CEO Shelley Ebenal. “I don’t know how many times we can say it.”
Dr. Mishelle Nace, a pediatrician with Tanana Valley Clinic, explained a step-by-step diagram the foundation had put together that outlined the reasons for leaving your home. These include getting supplies and food, work if you are employed in an essential service such as public safety or health, to deliver food and care to a family member and to exercise outside — the last one of which Nace hammered home.
“You can go outside. You can walk your dog. You can walk with a friend as long as you maintain social distance,” Nace said. “It’s not a sentence that you have to stay in your house and isolated. You can go outside if you are able to maintain that social distance. And in Alaska, we are easily able to maintain that distance.”
Nace explained away many of the statements Dunleavy pointed to in avoiding the mandate.
“It is not a lockdown. It is not saying you can’t go outside. It’s not saying you can’t bring food and supplies to a family member who is needing it,” she said. “It is saying we want you to stay home any time it’s not essential to go out (into the public).
“If you can stay home, stay home, if you need to go out, make sure it’s for an essential reason, and that includes going outside and getting exercise as long as you can maintain social distance of being six feet away from another person,” she said.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.