Gov. Mike Dunleavy met with more than 100 energized Mat-Su residents who came to Real Life Church outside of Palmer for a rousing Q&A townhall-style meeting on Jan. 15. Attendees did not hold back in airing a litany of concerns with their governor.
After Dunleavy arrived early to chat with Alaskans, the meeting quickly cut to the chase on a series of contentious issues. Hosted by the Alaska chapter of the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) attendees had two minutes to ask the governor questions. Nothing was off the table.
Dunleavy kicked things off by summarizing his legal fights against the Biden administration’s anti-development policies in Alaska and the president’s attempts to impose various vaccine mandates.
Dunleavy praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 14 decision to block Biden’s vax mandates for private employers, but lamented that the court allowed a separate mandate for healthcare workers to stand, for now.
The governor then reiterated an often-repeated position that he believes people should be free to decline or accept vaccinations as they see fit. He also said doctors should have the right to prescribe and/or administer alternative Covid treatments as they deem necessary. To that end, he praised the Alaska State Medical Board for ultimately rejecting a recent push by some 200 doctors who wanted the board to punish physicians for prescribing ivermectin to treat Covid.
With regard to federal vaccine mandates for military members, Dunleavy said Alaska is preparing to join a lawsuit with other states on that front.
Dunleavy’s opening remarks included a swipe at the Anchorage Assembly for its mask mandates, a topic which is likely to come up during his 2022 election campaign. Throughout much of last year, many conservatives were unsuccessful in urging the governor to speak out against restrictions the Anchorage Assembly imposed on businesses, churches and political gatherings.
“I got a lot of heat from people because they wanted me to stop it,” Dunleavy said. “I don’t have a constitutional right to do that. I’m not hiding behind the constitution.”
He said the constitution gives first class cities such as Anchorage health powers to decide things like health mandates.
“They have a right at that local level to decide what they are going to do,” he said. “Do I think that was a great idea, what Anchorage was doing in terms of this continually strangling businesses? Of course not.”
Over the past year, however, many Alaskans expressed frustration that the governor failed to use his prominent position to at least put some public pressure on the Anchorage Assembly.
Dunleavy told the Mat-Su crowd that Anchorage voters were the ones who voted for their Assembly.
“I didn’t put the borough assembly in there,” he said. “They voted for the borough assembly.”
Following Dunleavy’s opening remarks, attendees started in with hard-hitting questions. Many dealt with the inability to access Covid treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
“Why don’t Alaskans have the right to try?” one woman asked in reference to the roadblocks she has faced in attempting to obtain alternative treatments.
Dunleavy said the state has never prohibited doctors or pharmacists from prescribing or administering Covid treatments.
“I know many doctors that prescribe and administer ivermectin,” he said. “I have a close personal friend who is a doctor who does that.”
But attendees said the issue goes beyond the absence of state prohibitions. In reality many pharmacists are refusing to fill doctor prescriptions for ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. This is due, in part, to political pressure coming from the governor’s own Health and Social Services Department, along with his Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, who has publicly disparaged ivermectin as a way to treat Covid.
“There is nothing that has come out of my office,” Dunleavy said with regards to discouraging ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine. “There may be impressions – and I’m not downplaying this – coming from Health and Social Services, in which people believe they’ve been led to believe that you cannot do it, but any doctor in this state that wants to prescribe and administer ivermectin – they can do it.”
Alaska must move to a treatment-based approach to Covid, Dr. Farr emphasized.
If a corporate office or hospital says otherwise, that’s their decision, not the state’s, Dunleavy added. He did note, however, that he’s heard of doctors being pressured by their peers and others to not prescribe or administer certain treatments.
He then claimed that his state medical and pharmacist boards are not doing anything to sanction doctors who prescribe or administer ivermectin.
While there are no sanctions coming from these boards, individual Alaska State pharmacists have discouraged the use ivermectin to treat Covid, and the Pharmacy Board has issued a joint notice with the boards of nursing and dental examiners that highlights the FDA’s approval of remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies, while cautioning Alaskans about the use of ivermectin.
Dunleavy said the real issue was not about penalties for administering these alternative early treatments but “whether the health department is promoting it.”
They are not.
As to whether people should bother taking early Covid treatments, Dunleavy said he was not going to tell people what to do because, “I’m not a doctor – that’s up to your doctor and your pharmacist,” he said.
While the governor has remained silent on the documented merits of ivermectin, he has granted his health department considerable reign to push the experimental Covid shots on children, pregnant women and others through television, radio and statewide PR campaigns. The governor has personally, taken part in these messages, urging Alaskans to get the jab.
At one point, Dr. Ilona Farr, who helped organize the Early Treatment Summit for Covid in October, called in to tell the governor that cloth face coverings are worthless and that children needed to be back in school, mask free.
She urged the governor to fight vaccine mandates, because adverse reactions to the shots are dangerous for many of her patients. Specifically, she said mandates should be halted for those under age 30 – a population with mild symptoms that do not justify the risk of adverse reactions from the jab. She noted that not a single person under age 20 has died from Covid in Alaska.
Ultimately, Alaska must move to a treatment-based approach to Covid, Dr. Farr emphasized, saying she has turned away hundreds of patients each month who want medications like ivermectin but cannot access them.
“We desperately need help there,” she said. “We definitely need to get these early treatments.”
Additionally, Alaskans need access to basic devices in their homes, Farr added.
“We need to get blood pressure cuffs, thermometers and make nebulizers more available for people so when this next wave comes around, we’ll be prepared for it,” she said.
Farr brought up problems she has experienced with the State Pharmacy Board.
“It looks like the pharmacy board has taken a stand around hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, so most of the pharmacists are refusing to dispense it, even though it’s one of the world’s safest medications,” she said.
“I have to have more options available,” Farr pleaded. “And I need to not be blocked by pharmacists when I write prescriptions.”
Dunleavy said he would look into the pharmacy board’s stance.
“I’ll make a direct inquiry,” the governor promised. “Because I heard something different.”
Following Farr, a 76-year-old man recounted difficulties he experienced in obtaining Covid treatments from local pharmacists. He said he was forced to shop at multiple locations before finally getting his medications.
Another person, Sheri Manning, said her husband got Covid in November and had to go to Mat-Su Regional Hospital where he was denied hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
“Zink needs to go,” Kincaid added, drawing cheers and applause.
“They will not treat you with that because it is not approved by the CDC and the WHO,” she told the governor. “Do you need to go in and have a talk with that administrator and make sure he does this?”
Dunleavy said he doesn’t have direct control over local hospitals, which are run by boards. He told Manning to take her issues up with board members directly.
“The best thing I can do is have a discussion with them,” the governor said. “I cannot order them.”
Long-time Mat-Su resident Marty Kincaid told the governor that she liked his talking points but seriously questioned the people he continues to employ in his administration. In particular, she took issue with the State’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, along with a February health summit that Dunleavy’s Department of Health is planning which includes giving Planned Parenthood representatives a platform to speak.
Kincaid noted that Zink is the president elect of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, a group that promotes vaccine mandates and passports.
“She’s running that, so my concern is – I like what you’re saying, but those under you are not in alignment with your platform,” Kincaid emphasized.
“Zink needs to go,” Kincaid added, drawing cheers and applause.
Zink has come under increased scrutiny among conservative quarters for persistently hounding Alaskans to get the jab, including pregnant women and children. While Dunleavy did not publicly defend Zink at the Mat-Su meeting, he declined to say he would remove her.
Unknown at the time to those in attendance was the fact the Dunleavy had nominated Zink for an “Outstanding Government Services” award through the American Medical Association.
“I’m being honest with you,” the governor said. “I’m not going to have a discussion here in front of folks, but I’ll make the decision on the future of not just one staff member but a number of staff members.”
Unknown to most in attendance was the fact the Dunleavy had already nominated Zink for an “Outstanding Government Services” award through the American Medical Association. The Alaska Landmine broke that story the following day.
In a gushing letter to the AMA in November, Dunleavy praised Zink as “trusted public health official” who has worked to “maximize vaccination numbers and dispel misinformation.” Dunleavy said Zink has “saved thousands of Alaskans” and “kept our society safe.”
Trust in government, however, was a particular concern raised by one Mat-Su man who said he no longer had faith in Alaska politics or the government.
Dunleavy responded by saying he, too, “would not trust government,” and that it is good to “always have questions, all the time – constantly.”
With regard to the people working under him, Dunleavy said he disagrees with a number of his employees.
The governor admitted that he wished he knew more about the virus early on so that he could have done things differently.
“I have to deal with 22,000 employees, and I can tell you not all of them believe what I believe,” he said without naming names. “Some of those people have been there for 20 years, 30 years, but nonetheless I’ve got to work through that. Those are the folks that we have. A lot of good people, but some folks who have some very different views on what Alaska should look like.”
On the vaccine mandate front, several speakers asked the governor to step up and defend their right to refuse the jab without losing their jobs.
One nurse said she lost her employment at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium due to mandates. She found another job with a company that does not require vaccines, but that, too is now in jeopardy due to President Biden’s federal mandate for health care entities that receive federal reimbursements.
Dunleavy said the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the medical worker mandate for now, and that there is very little he can do.
“It makes no sense to me as a matter of practice, now to say, ‘you don’t want to get your vaccination? You’re gone.’ With all the skills, training and what you’ve done for people – it makes no sense to me,” he said.
Dunleavy did commit to talking to his attorney general to see if there were any other options, but said “It’s looking tough because of that decision they’ve made.”
Another woman asked why the Governor imposed restrictions on churches and businesses, and limited travel, early on.
Dunleavy said no one knew much about the virus in the initial days. He said once he had a better understanding of the virus, the “protocols changed.” The governor admitted that he wished he knew more about the virus early on so that he could have done things differently.
The woman retorted that Sen. Lora Reinbold tried to tell him, but he only attempted to “silence her.”
Several speakers called for a forensic audit of the 2020 general election in order to regain trust in the vote.
“When you silenced her, you silenced me,” she said.
Last February, Dunleavy issued a scathing letter about Reinbold (R-Eagle River), claiming she abused her office as a state senator by accusing him of grossly mismanaging Alaska’s COVID response.
Viewed by many as an attempt to get Reinbold removed from her powerful post as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the letter stated that Dunleavy forbid any member of his executive branch to respond to or participate with any committee chaired by Reinbold.
“I don’t silence anybody. Okay?” Dunleavy claimed at the Mat-Su meeting. “I have an opinion too, and when I have an opinion that what somebody is saying is – I’m going to be blunt – is out to lunch, people say the same thing to me. People here will give me their opinion that I’m out to lunch. I respect that. I think people should give their opinion when they think somebody is out to lunch.”
The other main issue brought up at the Mat-Su gathering was election reform. Several speakers called for a forensic audit of the 2020 general election in order to regain trust in the vote.
Tom Oels, a leading advocate for election reform in Alaska, took to the microphone and said that in 2019 the governor met with him and about 40 others at the Windbreak restaurant in Wasilla, where residents asked for equal access to the vote centers during the 2020 general election.
Otherwise, there would be cheating, Oels said. “And there was.”
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Furthermore, Oels claimed that in 2020 Lt. Gov. Meyer indicated that the governor favored a hand recount of each precinct in the State of Alaska. That never happened, Oels told Dunleavy.
He then asked why the audit of the 2018 election, conducted by then State Commissioner of Administration Kelly Tshibaka, has not been released to the public.
“Everyone in the state of Alaska wants to see it,” Oels said.
Dunleavy did not respond to several of Oels’ points but did say that the first thing he did when hiring Tshibaka was to have her conduct a review of elections.
“So, Kelly came in a did a review,” he said. “It can be released with some redactions. And the only reason I say this is because, contrary to what some people believe, there are in fact, right now, at least three active cases under the Department of Public Safety – the Troopers – being investigated right now for election irregularity and election fraud. They are being investigated now, so sections of that document may have to be redacted but most of that document can be released.”
John Nelson reiterated the call to fix Alaska’s elections, including investigating the 2020 general.
“If we do not fix the 2020 general election, we’ll never have another fair election again,” he said to the most thunderous applause of the morning. “We also need a full forensic audit.”
Dunleavy thanked the crowd for turning out and said he is willing to do more meetings in the months ahead.