Some of our elected leaders in Juneau are acting as if the pandemic is over, but the virus isn’t done with us. We need those in leadership to show Alaskans how we can finally end the pandemic — by wearing a mask, keeping our distance, postponing nonessential travel and getting vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.
Since Alaska’s emergency declaration expired Feb. 14, we have seen cases surge in Ketchikan, Petersburg, Cordova, Dillingham, Eagle River, Wasilla and Palmer. As of this writing, the Mat-Su region has the highest daily case rate in Alaska. We know from media reports that six legislators traveled to attend a fundraiser in Palmer for the Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC), where attendees gathered indoors without wearing masks. In attendance were Rep. Mike Cronk, R-Tok, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy; both have confirmed COVID-19. While it’s not known whether Rep. Cronk and the governor contracted the virus at the AOC event, the behavior reported having occurred shows attendees were not taking the precautions needed to slow the spread. The infection of Rep. Cronk has also had a ripple effect in the Legislature, with at least 15 elected lawmakers being identified as close contacts and placed in quarantine. We wish those infected a swift recovery.
What this shows is that the virus can take advantage if we let our guard down and don’t follow the commonsense steps to prevent spread. Poor adherence to safety guidelines at a single gathering has had a dramatic impact. Individuals in quarantine are wondering if they’ll become sick or spread the infection to their families. The legislative session in Juneau has ground to a halt at a time when we need lawmakers to be taking action. Alaska is one of only two states in the nation without an active emergency declaration — which may cause delays and disruption in vaccine distribution, the closing of testing sites, loss of federal funding, and most heartbreaking, interruptions in specialty care previously delivered by telemedicine.
We — and our legislators — need to be smarter than the virus. These outbreaks are preventable. Please continue to follow the public health guidelines. The best way to end this epidemic is to offer vaccines to everyone who is eligible as quickly and safely as possible.
Please call your lawmakers today and tell them we need every tool available to fight this virus — and that one of the easiest ways for them to help is to follow the safety guidelines so they can keep working to get Alaska back on its feet.
— Jennifer Meyer
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