Emergency alarms suddenly blared from smart phones across Alaska just before 10 a.m. on Nov. 12 to announce an ominous video message from Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

His three-minute YouTube video warned residents that COVID is spreading rapidly across Alaska and suggested that immediate action must be taken while there are still voluntary options.

Dunleavy, who is being pressured by Anchorage’s acting mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson and some in the medical community to issue a statewide mask mandate, argued that first responders and medical providers had to be protected from sickness so they can perform their duties. He did not, however, provide data on the level of sickness in those professions.

My job as governor is not to tell you how to live your life.

Gov. Dunleavy

In addition to reminding Alaskans that his new 30-day emergency declaration goes into effect on Nov. 16, he revealed a new order stating that “masks and distancing are mandatory at state work sites for employees and visitors alike.”

The governor asked Alaskans to “sacrifice a little more” until the end of November.

“If you own a business that can operate remotely, send your employees home,” he said. “I’m urging municipalities to take similar action and protect your workforce and your communities.”

Dunleavy then encouraged Alaskans to order food and services via curbside if possible.

“If we are going to keep our hospitals running and businesses open, all Alaskans must return to the same mindset that worked so well this past spring,” he said. “We know from experience that distance is the primary tool that works in the battle against this virus. Please stay six feet apart from all non-household members. If you cannot do that. If you cannot stay six feet apart, I’m asking everyone to wear a mask in any and every setting.”

With regards to the holiday season in which many people hold celebrations with family and friends, the governor urged Alaskans to “celebrate differently.”

We must act now while we still have choices.

Gov. Dunleavy

“My job as governor is not to tell you how to live your life,” he said. “My job is to ensure the security and safety of Alaska. I can’t do that without your help.”

The end of the address included an ominous warning of future actions if Alaskans are unable to slow the spread of COVID.

“If we can buy time for our critical workers, if we can keep our systems operational, we can avoid being forced to take further action,” Dunleavy stated. “But if we cannot reduce the spread of this virus, we reduce our future options for how to proceed.”

“No matter what you believe about the virus, the facts are the facts,” he added. “Hospitalizations and sick health care workers are reaching untenable levels. We must act now while we still have choices.”


With an overall population of 731,00 residents, Alaska currently has 14,080 active COVID cases with just 100 of those hospitalized. The state reports that nearly 845,000 COVID tests (which is not a count of unique individuals) have been conducted so far this year and that COVID patients make up 11% of total hospitalizations.

Overall, the number of excess deaths in Alaska are just slightly higher than the three-year average from 2017 to 2019. In 2020, Alaska has seen 180 more deaths than the three-year average. Most of those are due to heart disease (33 above the average), diabetes (28 above the average), and cancer (14 above average). Total COVID related deaths in Alaska stand at 90.

In terms of hospital capacity, the state reports the following data.

  • In-patient beds available: 419 out of 1,200
  • ICU beds available: 67 out of 213
  • Ventilators available: 350 out of 380

Governor warns Alaska to voluntarily mask up before he is ‘forced to take further action’

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.