Gov. Mike Dunleavy has not done near enough to promote the use of masks and to try to get hundreds of thousands of Alaskans to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

His efforts have been less than half-hearted. And Alaska is paying the price with hospitals that are overwhelmed and a growing death toll.

In a campaign press release printed by some Alaska newspapers as a guest opinion, Dunleavy claims that he has done more than enough on masks and vaccines.

According to Dunleavy, “we have all heard the words from the naysayers and detractors: It’s not enough. ‘Enough’ is a code word for vaccine and mask mandates.”

Dunleavy needs a new codebook. As Andrew Halcro said on his podcast, “With All Due Respect,” there is never any middle ground with Dunleavy, who is content to do the bare minimum.

The governor could wear a mask, ask others to wear masks and show by his actions that he believes the science that shows masking works. And he could plead with unvaccinated Alaskans that they have a responsibility to themselves and others.

He could drive home the point that hospitals are in crisis because of unvaccinated Alaskans who are putting the entire state at risk. He could mention that the shots are safe and that 6 billion doses have been administered worldwide.

That would require sincerity, passion and political courage, qualities missing from Dunleavy’s playbook. But as the death toll rises, he gives himself a pass and says he’s done enough, when he’s done almost nothing.

“Despite the current surge affecting the entire world, including both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, Alaska continues to hold its own,” Dunleavy said.

In suggesting that the vaccinated and unvaccinated are at equal risk and creating equal strain on the health care system, he’s lying to Alaskans, pandering to the portion of the public that wants to be fooled.

A large majority of those dying from Covid-19 are unvaccinated. A large majority of those occupying hospitals beds because of Covid-19 are unvaccinated. Alaska is not holding its own, but Dunleavy refuses to push vaccinations and masks.

“Unlike some, I don’t view my fellow Alaskans as subjects to be injected through some government dictate.”

Alaska news organizations have mainly given Dunleavy a pass for his “Feel free to remain unvaccinated” messaging. Since the spring he has made it clear that he won’t twist anyone’s arm.

On a new state-funded podcast hosted by one of two new press agents hired last month, Health Commissioner Adam Crum gave a similar “get the shot if you feel like it” pitch.

“To be clear, myself and the governor 100 percent believe, it is a personal choice, I respect that, I want everybody to understand it absolutely is a personal medical choice. And it is so important for us, we’ve said this throughout. You have to meet people where they’re at.”

“Some people will have reasons that they believe or medical reasons, which is true, that they’re not going to receive that, and that is absolutely fine. And what we just ask is if you don’t receive that then you have grace with those who ask for you to get a vaccine. And for those that are vaccinated, that you also have grace for individuals for what their reasons may be they don’t get it.”

This is not what a competent health commissioner would say.

It’s a personal choice that is wreaking havoc in Alaska and ruining lives. Crum and Dunleavy don’t have the grace to say that.

Dermot Cole, a longtime columnist and reporter from Fairbanks, writes about Alaska politics and other topics on his blog Reporting From Alaska, which can be found at

Recommended for you