Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a virtual town hall meeting on Sept. 15. (Courtesy Photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Governor issues health alert asking for COVID-19 diligence

Alert was sent to Alaskans phones

This article has been updated to include new information.

An emergency alert was sent to Alaskans’ phones Thursday with of video of Gov. Mike Dunleavy announcing the extension of his COVID-19 emergency declaration and urging Alaskans to wear masks and strictly observe health mitigation strategies.

Dunleavy did not issue any health mandates affecting the general public, but said that most state workers are being asked to work from home and masks must be worn while in state offices even by members of the public. The governor strongly urged Alaskans to follow health protocols such as social distancing and masking.

[Governor urges Alaskans to change behavior amid rising case counts]

“Our health care workers, first responders and service members are being infected at unprecedented rates,” Dunleavy says in the video. “I’m asking each and every one of you to reach deep for the next three weeks. If we cannot reduce the spread of this virus, we reduce our future options for how to proceed.”

The governor has stopped short of issuing statewide health mandates for health protocols like masking, but has repeatedly urged Alaskans to follow the advice of health care professionals.

In an email Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the capacity of the state’s health care system is a legitimate and urgent concern and that the next three weeks are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“It is important to note while the administration and public health officials are aware of the needs of COVID-19 patients, there will always be individuals who will need care for emergencies such as a car accident, heart attack, or labor and delivery, and those individuals require skilled and healthy nurses and doctors,” the email said.

The governor chose to use the state’s emergency SMS text messaging system to reach the largest number of Alaskans instantaneously, Turner said in the email. The governor is aware that not all Alaskans use social media or consume news on a regular basis, the email said, and Dunleavy felt compelled to reach out the Alaskans in the most direct way possible to urge action to keep Alaskans safe.

The City and Borough of Juneau said in a news release Thursday it would not be raising the city’s risk level, which has been at Level 3 —High since Oct. 20, or implementing new mitigation measures.

“Governor Mike Dunleavy’s emergency message this morning reinforces the measures the City and Borough of Juneau has taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Juneau,” the statement said. “The guidance in the governor’s message includes maintaining a distance of six feet from all non-household members, wearing a mask or face covering, and utilizing online ordering and curbside pickup.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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