Gov. Dunleavy, turn the faucet off. Encourage masks and vaccinations.

Everyone knows what to do when the sink overflows. Two things: You turn the faucet off and unclog your sink. Gov. Mike Dunleavy is helping to unclog the sink by assisting hospitals with hiring more staff and taking other steps to increase the number of people to treat COVID-19 patients. Thanks to the governor for that action. Now, the governor must turn the faucet off by encouraging universal masking when in indoor public places and encouraging safe vaccination.

It does not need to be done by mandate, executive order or law. Instead, it could simply be done by effective leadership.

Leadership can be uncomfortable at times because it requires the ability to accept failure and make positive changes for improvement. Failure is not a threat to who we are, but it is a challenge to improve. We are currently failing in our war against COVID-19. Therefore, we must accept it as a challenge to improve so we can get back to normal. We can get back to normal by changing the conversation.

Gov. Dunleavy could do two things: Ask all Alaskans to temporarily wear a mask in indoor public places, and ask all eligible Alaskans to become vaccinated. If he did those two things at every press conference, public service announcement on the TV, radio and social media, in meetings with chambers of commerce, employers, schools, municipalities, villages, unions, trade groups and other politicians, most Alaskans would eventually listen.

Asking is not dictating or mandating.

Instead, ADN reported on Aug. 27, 2021 that “the governor stopped one step short of urging vaccinations, instead saying Alaskans should talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated ‘if that’s what they want to do.’” It is clear, vaccination policy is being left up to employers and schools. For that tactic to be effective, we need to all be singing from the same sheet of music.

Simple and consistent encouragement from the top would create alignment and change the conversation from “freedom of choice to do nothing” to “let’s get our freedom back, let’s get back to normal through safe vaccination.” Gov. Dunleavy could ask all Alaskans to be patriots and temporarily wear a mask in indoor public places until our hospitals are no longer full. The governor could also ask Alaskans to be patriots and help end this pandemic through safe vaccination with a fully authorized FDA vaccine. Most Alaskans will eventually listen to science-based leadership.


Become a vaccine ambassador and reach out to your friends and family who are unvaccinated to share your story of vaccination: how easy it was, why you chose to become vaccinated, whether you had any minor side effects, and anything else you feel is important to share. Positive encouragement with science-based information from trusted sources can make a difference.

Governor, you can make a difference. The sink is overflowing.

Dan Winkelman is Deg Hit’an and President and CEO of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. YKHC has 1,400 employees, operates a hospital, 5 sub-regional clinics, 42 village clinics, a skilled nursing facility and numerous region wide health services for the 30,000 residents of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

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