KENAI BOROUGH MAYOR PIERCE SENDS PLEA TO GOV. DUNLEAVY
A 23-hour Facebook poll on the Must Read Alaska page ended late Friday with over 1,500 participants; 82 percent of them said they are ready for the Alaska economy to be released from the government mandates that have destroyed many businesses and that are driving some Alaskans into poverty.
With tens of thousands Alaskans in the private sector suddenly unemployed by those who still have jobs in the public sector, a divide is developing between some who want the shutdown to continue as a health and safety measure to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and others who say the cure is worse than the disease.
On Wednesday, April 22, a group of Anchorage residents plan a rolling protest through downtown Anchorage. They’ll be meeting at the Loussac Library at 11:30 am with cars, trucks, and flags. (By coincidence, that is also Earth Day).
Similar protests are taking place across the country as citizens bristle against seemingly arbitrary decisions that have created winners and losers in the commercial sector.
The Dunleavy Administration acted quickly in building the supply of personal protective gear, testing capacity, and numerous mandates, but the vast majority Alaskans participating in the MRAK poll say they’re now ready to get back to work. Several posted comments to the effect that safeguards still need to be in place, such as wearing face coverings and taking extra precaution with hand hygiene.
One Alaskan who is ready to restore Alaska’s economy is Kenai Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, who wrote a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday:
“I have talked to many business owners on the Kenai Peninsula over the last several weeks and they are all struggling. If they have not been labeled essential, then they have been closed. Even so, all of their businesses are still down in revenue. Sadly, some have already failed and will never return. It will take years to recover economically from this COVID-19 event,” Pierce wrote.
“We all need to be safe, but it’s time to return Alaskans to work, as soon as, possible. We must do both! Alaskans are smart, resilient, dependable, safety-conscious, hard-working and want to persevere through this crisis. Failure for Alaskans should never be the only option.
“The time is now, we need COVID-19 testing for all ASAP, its overdue. Waiting months for this virus to pass will be more than devastating. If we continue to wait, we risk losing the last bit of economic viability that we have left in our state.
“The Alaska Legislature has not been focused on the hardships we are experiencing. They have ignored important needs and have acted as if this event isn’t a problem? We need solutions now, not next week.
“So, Governor, while they play politics with our daily lives, please return our liberties so we can succeed. Trust the people of Alaska! Execute your plans now to open Alaska.
“If you are sick or in a high-risk group, please stay home. Let those that can work safely, work.
“Governor Dunleavy, Alaskans are counting on you to lead and help is needed now,” Pierce concluded.
Alaska has gone from historic low unemployment this winter, at 5.8 percent, to the highest unemployment in state history, due to the economic shutdown at the federal, state, and local level.
Some 40,000 Alaskans applied for unemployment since the governor declared a state of emergency, with 38,000 of those claims are already processed, according to the Department of Labor Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter.
President Donald Trump has set May 1 as the goal for opening the economy, but has said he is leaving it to governors. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has hinted that he’ll lift mandates soon, but has not given specifics beyond the ending some — but not all — prohibition against doctors providing “elective care” for non-COVID-19-related procedures.
What are your thoughts about lifting mandates? Share them in the comment section below.