Gov. Mike Dunleavy

 

Alaska’s COVID-19 emergency declaration will expire at midnight tonight, and it appears as if it will not be renewed by the governor.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy extended the state’s emergency declaration twice before, in December and January, and he could file an extension that would last 30 days. Per state law, the disaster declaration cannot last more than 30 days unless it’s extended by the Legislature. With the Alaska House still unorganized and in recess until Monday, chances are dim for any legislative action. Both the Senate and the House have encouraged the governor to extend the declaration, however, with the Senate passing a nonbinding resolution Friday urging Dunleavy to act. On Wednesday, 20 members of the House Bipartisan Coalition sent a signed letter to the governor, also urging action.

“Our commitment remains for the House to ratify continuation of the disaster declaration,” the letter reads. “While we continue to assert the Legislature ultimately holds the authority to address ongoing disasters, we also acknowledge the critical nature of continuing the disaster declaration.”

In speaking to two Alaska Senate committees on Wednesday, Commissioner Adam Crum of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said the state stands to lose $8 million in federal funding for emergency food stamps if the declaration expires.

A federal funding loss would also impact COVID-19 response efforts such mass vaccination clinics and vaccine distribution as well as telemedicine.

In a Wednesday evening broadcast from the governor’s mansion in Juneau, Dunleavy said the state’s virus response would continue although “a number of tools go away.”

On Friday, the governor’s office released a brief statement, saying the Dunleavy administration is prepared to manage the rollout and distribution of vaccines.

“We will also continue to respond to COVID-19 as we begin the process of getting back to normal as soon as possible by focusing on the economy and assisting Alaskans in staying healthy,” the statement reads.

Case counts

On Friday, the state recorded 144 new cases of COVID-19, bringing Alaska’s tally to 54,282 cases. The state also announced two deaths attributed to the disease, an Anchorage man in his 60s and a Wasilla woman in her 80s. Since the pandemic started in March, the state has seen 1,196 hospitalizations and 280 deaths, according to data released by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Of the new cases announced Friday, the highest numbers were in Anchorage with 46, Wasilla with 21, Palmer with 12, Fairbanks and Kenai with 5 each, and North Pole, Juneau and Dillingham with 3 each. Other areas of the state saw increases of two or fewer cases.

The alert level remains high across Alaska, with 18.09 cases per 100,000 residents. Most regions of the state are in high alert status with widespread community transmission. That includes the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Interior. 

In vaccination counts, there have been 120,396 doses of No. 1 inoculations and 54,739 doses of No. 2 inoculations for a total of 175,135 doses administered in Alaska, according to the state health department.

COVID discussion

A health care partnership is presenting a roundtable-style discussion and Q&A session tackling face masks with a talk titled “Mystery and Mastery of the Mask.” It’s 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, free to attend and open to the public. Attendees can register for the Zoom event at bit.ly/3jKtGzP or watch it livestreamed at www.facebook.com/akechoprograms.

The hour session includes information on the CDC’s new masking guidelines as well as hearing personal stories from patients impacted by COVID-19. Medical experts slated for virtual attendance include Dr. Laura Brunner, Dr. Andrew Cox, Dr. Jaqueline Cox, Dr. Jenny Lessner, Dr. Mishelle Nace, Dr. Mark Simon, Dr. Becky Taylor, Dr. Chris Todd and RN Elizabeth Burton.

The online series is presented by a joint effort of the Alaska Division of Health and Social Services, University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Human Development, Chena Health, Fairbanks Cancer Care, Fairbanks Public Health, Interior Community Health Center, Tanana Chiefs Conference and Foundation Health Partners.

Contact Interim Managing Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.