JUNEAU — Alaska’s state health commissioner is ending a public health emergency order that’s been in place in response to the pandemic.
Commissioner Adam Crum said the state health department has been working to ensure that measures needed to respond to COVID-19 are permanent or sustainable. The emergency order ends July 1, KTOO Public Media reported.
“Most folks actually probably don’t even understand that we still have this in place,” Crum said.
The end of the declaration will result in some program reductions including a reduction in extra food assistance benefits and federal reimbursement rates.
Alaska in February 2021 became one of two states without a formal COVID-19 public health disaster declaration. The declaration in place since March 2020 provided legal backing for state health orders, as well as flexibilities to respond to the virus and deliver vaccine to Alaskans.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy let the declaration expire, saying the Legislature was the proper venue for an extension. The Alaska Legislature failed to renew it.
Legislation passed last year, however, allowed the commissioner to declare an emergency. Crum’s order took effect in May 2021.
Crum’s order was to expire when a federal emergency order did unless he rescinded it sooner. The federal order is expected to run at least through mid-July.
Public health director Heidi Hedberg said Alaska’s public health division will continue offering COVID-19 services. The health department also plans to continue tracking and reporting cases. The state will continue sending out weekly COVID-19 reports and maintain dashboards that show case counts, said chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink.
The end of the state order means that extra food assistance benefits will end for more than 56,000 Alaska households. Those benefits will continue through August.
Starting July 1, federal reimbursement rates also change. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been reimbursing COVID-19-related spending at 100%; that will fall to 90% with a 10% state match.