Now then: Alaska is moving back to normal. Excerpt:
Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a proclamation on Friday ending the COVID-19 disaster declaration in Alaska, immediately after he signed House Bill 76.
“Today I took immediate action to end the COVID-19 disaster declaration. Alaska is in the recovery phase where an emergency declaration is no longer necessary,” said Dunleavy. “Our systems are fully functioning with vaccine distribution, adequate testing, and health care capacity. It is important our focus remains on getting Alaska’s economy back on track and welcoming summer tourism throughout our great state. I am confident in our state’s future as we move forward.”
The Senate passed HB76, a bill extending Alaska’s disaster declaration on Wednesday followed by passage in the House on Thursday. A press release issued by Dunleavy’s office cites the ability of Federal COVID relief funds without charge back costs from the state treasury, estimated at $100 million on 2021.
“The House Coalition worked collaboratively with frontline health workers, hospital leaders, and business owners to provide practical tools needed to end the pandemic,” Speaker Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) said. “Unfortunately, the governor opted for politics over policy and decided to gamble with the health of Alaskans and with our economic recovery.”
Senate President Peter Miccciche and Representative Cathy Tilton were in attendance for the signing of Dunleavy’s proclamation. By ending the disaster declaration after passing HB76, Dunleavy aims to continue vaccination distribution including SNAP benefits and offer “comprehensive liability protection” for Alaskan businesses. The proclamation follows a recommendation from Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum.
“While COVID-19 is still present in Alaska, the urgent nature of the pandemic has passed and we are no longer anticipating the widespread emergency that Alaska faced earlier in this pandemic,” wrote Commissioner Crum in a memo to the governor. “As a result of the state’s early containment efforts, we have established a comprehensive public health infrastructure to respond to COVID-19 that will remain in place as we continue to strive to keep infection rates low, testing availability high, and protect the capacity of our health care facilities to address cases of COVID-19, while accommodating all medical and health related issues that the residents of our state encounter.”
So, not everyone agrees – big surprise – but Alaska’s moving back to normal. One thing that has changed immediately is that people, both residents and non-residents, flying into Alaska are no longer required to have a negative ‘rona test prior to arriving, although tests are available free to residents and non-residents at Anchorage airport (at least) as an option, if travelers choose to take it. Quarantine plans are likewise no longer required.
As with so many issues, on the matter of the ‘rona, Alaska is a bit unusual. A particular worry early on in this mess was the bush communities, where a sudden severe illness may require a long trip by bush plane or boat to any treatment. Another concern is the summer tourist season, which sees a lot of people coming to the Great Land from a host of other locations, and while that’s always a concern where communicable illnesses are concerned, it’s also an economic consideration, as a lot of the state’s economy depends on this.
Were I to summarize Governor Dunleavy’s action in my own words, it would be “we’re moving back to business as usual, but will keep an eye on things.” Not an unreasonable way to divide that particular baby.