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    Governor: Alaska ‘headed towards a much bigger opening’

    AlaskaWatchman.com

    Governor Mike Dunleavy indicated that most health mandates will be lifted and/or substantially eased this week as the number of COVID-19 infection and hospitalizations remain extremely low in Alaska.

    “We will probably end up retaining just a few things that will be up for specific groups such as large gatherings, concerts, things like that,” Dunleavy said during his May 18 press conference. “Pretty soon I think you’re going to recognize the Alaska that we once had.”

    As of May 18, Alaska had just 44 active cases of COVID-19 and only nine people hospitalized.

    The governor said the new guidelines will be announced on Wednesday, and they will include asking Alaskans to continue practicing social distancing on their own.

    The state’s chief medical officer Anne Zink added to the governor’s message, saying the state will be moving away from big measures to individual measures. Going out for dinner with friends or holding social gatherings will be decisions that individuals make on their own, she said.

    She acknowledged that “many people have already moved in that direction,” but encouraged Alaskans to consider the health of their friends, family and neighbors as they move forward.

    As of May 18, Alaska had just 44 active cases of COVID-19 and only nine people hospitalized.

    Dunleavy said the minimal numbers have been consistent and that the goal was only ever to ensure that the health care capacity was never overwhelmed by the virus.

    “It would be a different story if we hand thousands of cases and hundreds of folks in hospital beds,” he said. “We don’t have that.”

    The new guidelines will be just that – guidelines. They will also be much simpler and easy to understand across all business and social gatherings.

    Dunleavy repeatedly emphasized that the economy and society had to “get up and running” again.

    “We are a free country. We are a free state,” he said. “Our numbers are low. The numbers don’t justify us continuing anything but opening up.”

    The new guidelines will be just that – guidelines. They will also be much simpler and easy to understand across all business and social gatherings.

    “It’s really going to be advisories for what you as individuals can do to stay healthy,” Dunleavy said.

    As Alaska moves away from mandates, the state should expect the number of infections to tick upwards, he added. As they do, the state will keep an eye on health care capacity while tracking where and how the cases are spreading.

    We got to get way from the idea of fear. We understand this enough that we shouldn’t fear it. We understand it enough that we should respect it.

    While the virus has had very little actual health impact, the governor admitted that there will always be a risk in opening up society.

    “Nothing is fool proof with this virus,” he said. “We have to learn to live with it and manage it and I think we can do it.”

    “The idea is we learn to live with this until there is a vaccination,” he said. “We got to get way from the idea of fear. We understand this enough that we shouldn’t fear it. We understand it enough that we should respect it.”

    Ultimately, Alaska has to move forward and open the economy, “not just for money, but for people’s mental health, emotional health,” Dunleavy observed.

    “We’re not going to let the pandemic win,” he said. “It’s not going to change our lives radically.”

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    Joel Davidson
    Joel Davidson
    Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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