Governor confident in state’s ability to respond to virus without disaster declaration

Adds that change raises questions.

Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at an Anchorage news conference on Dec. 11. In a Sunday news conference, Dunleavy discussed the end of Alaska’s longtime COVID-19 disaster declaration and what it means for the state’s response to the virus.

Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at an Anchorage news conference on Dec. 11. In a Sunday news conference, Dunleavy discussed the end of Alaska’s longtime COVID-19 disaster declaration and what it means for the state’s response to the virus.

This article has been updated to clarify a time period.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said with the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration expired, it’s now time for Alaska to focus on recovery.

For nearly a year, a COVID-19 disaster declaration has been in place, but the Alaska House of Representatives was unable to organize in time for the Legislature to take action to extend the declaration. Dunleavy said he was unwilling to again extend the declaration, so it came to an end Sunday.

“This sun-setting of the declaration is no cause for alarm,” Dunleavy said in a rare Sunday news conference. “We believe that we have the protocols we need, the tools that we need to move forward. Where we see a hole that we may not have picked up over the last few weeks when we were planning for this inevitability, we will address that hole. If there is an issue that the declaration overlooked, we will address that as soon as possible. This is a new beginning for Alaska. This is a new day for Alaska.”

However, the end of the declaration, which helped the state manage administration of vaccinations and made it eligible for millions of federal dollars, raises questions that are still being worked out.

“We may not have all the answers right now, but we will get them,” Dunleavy said before taking questions from reporters. “This question-and-answer period is going to take at least the next week or two to get everything in place for the rest of the transition moving forward.”

Dunleavy issued a directive to all commissioners and state employees to continue following all policies regarding COVID-19 that were in place under the COVID-19 disaster declaration. He said in the coming weeks, regulations suspended during the pandemic will be reviewed and changes are likely.

“Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be meeting with our departments, we’ll be meeting with those entities, we’ll be clearly articulating to the people of Alaska what still remains in place,” Dunleavy said.

He said the most immediate and public-facing change will be at airports, where COVID-19 testing will no longer be required. However, Dunleavy said testing will be available to those who want to be tested at no cost to the traveler. Additionally, health advisories including recommendations for keeping Alaskans safe, in-state travel, out-of-state travel and critical infrastructure were issued.

In Juneau, city officials have advised travelers not to expect any changes in light of the lapsed declaration.

On Thursday, Feb. 11, City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted to adopt a local emergency ordinance that mirrored the previous state mandates. Dunleavy said Sunday that the state’s first-class cities have that right, but he heavily encourages them to make data-driven decisions when putting restrictions in place.

Guidelines for travelers arriving in Juneau can be found online at https://juneau.org/covid-19/covid-19-travel.

State health officials, including Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum, Division of Public Health director Heidi Hedberg and Alaska’s chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink said limiting spread of COVID-19 and ensuring availability of vaccines to Alaskans remain priorities.

Crum said the expired declaration raises questions about the state’s ability to distribute the vaccines, but in the near-term future, the state’s existing plan can continue to work.

“Our ability to get the vaccine from the federal government will not come into question,” Crum said. “We can still receive the vaccine. What we’re trying to work out with Department of Law is our ability to distribute it.”

He said state officials are confident they can continue to distribute vaccines through the month and will work with federal officials to determine what can be done.

Prior to the emergency declaration’s expiration, dozens of individual lawmakers and the state Senate asked Dunleavy to extend the declaration by another 30 days.

Dunleavy said in light of the state’s relatively favorable metrics, distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to about 24% of the state’s population and the Legislature being back in session, he did not feel it was necessary to extend the declaration.

However, he said if the state starts to see numbers go “out of whack,” action will need to be taken.

“We continue to be in this together, but we’re moving in a, I think, positive direction,” Dunleavy said.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Sept. 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crew-member observes a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter on routine patrol in the Bering Sea came across the guided missile cruiser from the People's Republic of China, officials said Monday, Sept. 26.  (U.S. Coast Guard District 17 via AP)
Patrol spots Chinese, Russian naval ships off Alaska island

This wasn’t the first time Chinese naval ships have sailed near Alaska waters.

An Alaska judge has ruled that a state lawmaker affiliated with the Oath Keepers, Rep. David Eastman, shown in this February 2022 photo, may stay on the general election ballot in November even though he's likely ineligible to hold public office  (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge ordered delaying certifying the result of the race until a trial scheduled for December.

Water rushes down Front Street, just a half block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the region. It was a massive storm system — big enough to cover the mainland U.S. from the Pacific Ocean to Nebraska and from Canada to Texas. It influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm dropped rain on the northern part of the state, offering a measure of relief to wildfire crews but also complicating fire suppression efforts because of mud and loosened earth. (AP Photo / Peggy Fagerstrom)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

ANCHORAGE — There’s been significant damage to some roads and homes in… Continue reading

j
Sniffen indicted on sexual abuse counts

Sniffen will be arraigned Monday.

In this undated file photo the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska is shown. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Oil price drop endangers plan to fund Alaska schools a year early

If oil prices fall, amount is automatically reduced to an amount the state can afford. At

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau Police Department announces technology and reporting updates

Emergeny services and direct reporting will not be interrupted

The hoverfly can perceive electrical fields around the edges of the petals, the big white stigma, and the stamens. (Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Electric flowers and platform plants

You cannot see it, it’s electric.

Most Read