Part II: Leadership during crisis, now an economic one - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, June 5, 2020
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Part II: Leadership during crisis, now an economic one

GOVERNOR FACES THE NEXT STORM

By March 16, there were 52 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Alaska, and the first Alaskan had just died of the coronavirus. The case load was just about to spike. Between March 17 and 23, more than 100 cases of COVID were diagnosed across the state, mainly in urban areas.

By now, Gov. Mike Dunleavy was closing state-operated facilities like libraries and museums, and suspending public programs. Residential school programs were told to send students back to their home communities. Mayors in some communities took even more drastic actions.

The case count kept growing and by March 31, there were 187 active cases of coronavirus, 66 had recovered, and four Alaskans had died. That was the peak of the first viral storm for Alaska, and by then personal protective gear for medical providers was a problem all over the country, including Alaska, to the point where the joint commission that governs hospital standards issued a statement saying health care workers could bring their own masks to work from home, and use whatever PPE they could get their hands on.

These were unusual times for a field that is highly regulated. Alaska was by no means fully prepared.

Mask-makers all over the state were busy sewing masks, trying to keep up with the demand by medical professionals and first responders, as well as those with public-facing jobs.

Also unusual: At the governor’s request, distilleries begin making hand sanitizer, which was in short supply. They were suddenly pumping out hundreds of gallons of the virus-destroyer.

Fairbanks had emerged as a “hot spot” for the spread. So had Ketchikan, and cases were popping up in Juneau. Gov. Dunleavy and his team were working 20 hours a day, by now.

“There were times when we’d just stop and look at each other and realize, ‘Seattle is falling apart. They’re dying left and right like Italy. We have to make decisions. We can sit here like sitting ducks, or we can make some changes pretty fast and save this place’,” Dunleavy said.

At one point, Seattle was even asking Alaska hospitals for help, he said.

Dunleavy has a great deal of respect for the team that helped lead through the storm. Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, was tough, but he said she understood that while her focus was to be on health, his focus had to be on the entire health of the state — including the economic well-being of Alaska. The state could not endure an indefinite lockdown, and he would not allow it to go on long.

But he also knew that no matter what the outcome, the person at the helm takes the blame for what goes wrong.

“I told my people back in January, ‘We won’t survive this politically. If it’s a nothing-burger, and people survive, we will be crucified. If we don’t act fast enough, we will be crucified. We just have to do the best we can to maintain our health care system,'” Dunleavy said. “That’s our responsibility. We told people we needed time to build up our health care capacity, and we did that.”

Now, on May 22, it seems like a lifetime since Dunleavy and his team warned Alaskans to stock up on their prescription medications and prepare to hunker down. Dunleavy has now declared the state reopened.

Some communities will lag, such as Anchorage, which is governed by a mayor who follows his own political compass.

Western Alaska communities that are starting the fishing season will also have their own rules, Dunleavy said. Next week, Samaritan’s Purse will open a field hospital in King Salmon to be ready for a possible outbreak.

It is up to Alaskans to take personal responsibility to guard their health and their families from infection.

“We’re going to have to live with this virus. We’ve now got the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage set up, with 150 beds ready. We’ve got response teams to go out to rural Alaska and pull people out by helicopter if needed,” Dunleavy said. “But we need to manage this in our lives.”

Every night, Dunleavy thinks about the business community and the misery they have endured. He knows it’s an economic disaster that is just beginning. He sees it in the tourism businesses struggling to stay alive in hopes of a better year next year. He hears about it from business owners, many of whom are his friends and supporters.

There will be another surge of virus, and maybe another one after that until an effective vaccine is available, Dunleavy said. The surges will not care that there’s an economic crisis afoot.

Now that he has lifted nearly all of the mandates, Alaskans should brace themselves for clusters of cases to pop up.

Meanwhile, nearly every state is going through the same disaster — Hawaii, which has an economy dependent 100 percent on tourism, is in big trouble, Dunleavy said. He hears about the other states on phone calls with the White House and other governors: Boston is on the verge of having its hospital system collapse. In North Dakota and Texas, the oil economy has decimated the economies.

“In conversations with other governors, it’s the same kind of story. They’re in bad shape, like we are in Alaska,” he said. “California just cut $18 billion from their education budget — and yet some in our own Legislature was trying to figure out how to override my vetoes.”

Dunleavy hinted that he has some tough management decisions ahead for state government. Even with federal funds, the price of oil is far beneath what is needs to be to pay for the fiscal year ahead.

“This story is far from over. We are facing great economic perils,” Dunleavy said.

But he’s done with closures; the state and the people of Alaska have taken all they can bear of the mandates. The world will have to figure out how to move forward with this virus for some time to come.

“We can’t shut down again,” he said.


Read Part 1 of this story at this link:

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • THANK YOU GOVERNOR DUNLEAVY, I appreciate all the work you are doing under such adversity. I too am to blame for getting mad at you a time or two. But, you are the best Governor that I have lived through in my almost 4 decades up here. None of us are perfect but I feel you have done an awesome job protecting Alaskans and the statistics prove it. Now if we the people can get the legislative bodie to wake up and realizze that the table has turned and their way is impossible to pass scrutiny anymore due to transeparency laws we the people are accessing. They not only have to wake up they have to answer for what they have done. This is far from over concerning the traitors within the Alaskan governing body that is going to soon be even more exposed. Hang in there. We win. God told us so!

  • I am eating crow. Pulitzer time for MRAK.

  • Only an idiot in the house would bash a man for saving the people of the state. He better not if he knows what’s good for him. He knows what I am talking about.

  • Excellent reporting Suzanne.
    Overall, Mike did a great job,with the information he had, piss poor models, a media that didn’t have a clue and all over him, a virus that was a total unknown.
    As to Dr Zink, she did a lot of good, but what she didn’t do was inspire. Sure, a lot of talk about distancing and prevention, then of course the testing and how they expected the virus to spread, again, based on some poor information from the CDC.
    Where I have my biggest gripe is she gave those that are the vulnerable, seniors zero hope with what treatments were and are available. Bashed Hydroxlchoroquine each time it was brought up, bashed serology testing, even when both were approved by the FDA. I strongly feel, that with the low death rate (that is in question on how that was handled), there was treatment and information that was on going that could and should have been told to the senior public that they had a good chance at survival, vs what we were seeing on the news of death if you were a senior and for sure if you had a preexisting medical condition! Not to mention others in HHS that were of no help and poor and long responses. Case in point, I asked detailed questions to the questionscovid@alaska.gov on 14 Apr, just got an answer, BS answer in my opinion yesterday!.
    All that said, with what Mike was getting for information, he did very good, and Alaska showed that we did the best with our low death rate, infection rate and outstanding, 88% recovery rate!

  • Lipstick on a pig, this man suspended the 1st Amendment without so much as 30 seconds of reflection. As far as Zink goes, she is just another incompetent bureaucrat of the Deep State. Next gubernatorial election it will be time to find a true conservative. One who values the Constitution and personal liberties.

    • Show me, specifics that he suspended the 1st Amendment. Please, inquiring mind want to see that!

      • Mike Coons stop bending over to this dictator! Mongo is right! Wake up Mr. Appointee of the King!

    • Agreed, Nothing else needs to be said !

  • I certainly applaud our Governor. 100%. Alaska is so fortunate to have Governor Dunleavy driving. I agree with ‘no more lockdowns’.

  • There was a lot of media driven fear in the beginning. The media would say one thing one day and then turn 180 degrees from what they said ” like don’t wear a mask”. Also the numbers of deaths are inflated because doctors are being instructed to report death as Covid caused. If this virus would have showed up after the elections I’m sure it would not have gotten all the media hype that it has gotten now. It has become a political weapon to be used against each other. Governor Dunleavy had the difficult task of sorting through the smoke and mirrors and try to develop a plan for Alaska. I’m thankful that Alaska seemed to be spared the high casualties that some other states had. New York seemed to be in a whole class of its own, putting covid patients in nursing homes ect. Glad we don’t have leadership like that in Alaska. Governor Dunleavy did all this while Democrats and Rino’s are trying to recall him. Lets show him our gratitude Alaska and support him in his battle as he has supported us in ours.

  • Governor Dunleavy has been an awesome governor. A+ in my book. Alaska has best case #s in the country. Best of all? He has done everything in his power to protect the most vulnerable AND the bush communities who have little in the way of health care resources. Yet sadly, the recall petition fanatics push on, flogging the dead horse. Kinda like the Fair Share fanatics, who still believe the oil industry is in another boom phase. Sad indeed.

  • We have a good governor, just like we have a good president. If we allow him to be recalled because we didn’t get out to vote and get our friends and neighbors out to vote…just like if we let the socialists put their corrupt addled creepy puppet In the White House, because we as a nation didn’t rally, then our state and our country will get what it deserves. I don’t think the stakes could be any higher in either case, in my lifetime, than they are between August and November of this year.

  • Lawrence / Ben Colder:/ Charles Perrett: agree, totally. VOTE people!

  • Mike did not do what we expected, and that was to step back and evaluate, rather than knee jerk. He did what his advisors recommended, Zink, his oracle in a yurt, is a Fauci repeater, that’s all she did was repeat the CDC.
    Problem is, while the rush to confine the population based upon Neil Ferguson’s draconian model that was not checked at any level of government in the U.S., Britain, or Europe until very recently, the counts and the knowledge diverged–the counts fell off, the knowledge increased. Fauci was right, this is no more than a bad flu season.
    Ferguson’s model was shown to be garbage in, garbage out, worthless, bad math, bad programming and no one checked it. No one. Ferguson needs to be held accountable along with all of the federal officials at the CDC,
    Britain’s NHS and the EU. Fools.
    Alaska was facing a severe economic decline, because OPEC’s and Russia’s machinations to cripple the U.S. oil output, something that we now see with the shut downs on the NS. The NS was not shut down, because of COVID-19, the drop in price was the underlying cause.
    In the face of an economic disaster, Governor Dunleavy reacted in response to the paradigm of Fauci et al, he shut down Alaska and violated the 1st Amendment with the ban on assemblies, free association, religious services and Article IV with respect to free travel and equal rights under the law with the 14 day quarantine for travelers. Then, there is his abandonment of his agenda.
    Dunleavy had an opportunity to mitigate the impact upon Alaskans by fighting for the PFD distribution, both the monies owed and the current PFD. He did not challenge the Legislature this session, nor has he called a special session to reverse the $4B sweep into the PF and pay what’s owed to Alaskans to mitigate the damage. He stood there while the Legislature ignored his desire for multiple payments. However, he also shortchanged his campaign promise by truncating his attempt at just the monies owed from last years and the current PFD. Full payment would have kept Alaskans in money, eliminated the need for the federal payment and kept the economy. His failure to act in our defense by calling a special session and challenging the Legislature using the bully pulpit may be lost, unless he acts now.
    Mike Dunleavy lost a lot of support with his lack of commitment regarding his agenda and the PFD, and did more damage with the violation of our constitutional rights. I give no credit to Dr. Zink, his oracle in a yurt, who hid in her yurt while her subordinates reported to work at their state offices.
    Dunleavy will not be recalled, although Kevin Meyers cannot do much damage to the PFD issue than already has been done. Dunleavy has all but conceded that issue to Giessel and Edgmon to the detriment of all Alaskans. The damage to Alaska business was unnecessary, the damage to our healthcare system was arrested early enough that there were only 300 jobs lost in the YK Delta healthcare system.
    The damage to come from the looming economic catastrophe is the greatest challenge, more so for Alaska than any other state. We are a one trick pony, the governor conceded both his agenda and the PFD to the Legislature.
    Reelection is not recall, the recall issues are moot and no longer relevant. The reelection campaign may see one or even two primary challengers.
    Dunleavy cannot afford the Parnell leadership paradigm of doing nothing in the face of adversity. Yet, that seems to be both the advice taken and the path chosen. His choice, fight for us, regain the initiative for his agenda, or become a one term governor, just like Parnell and Walker. His choice.
    Guys like me have been trying to tell him, but we haven’t been able to get the message across.

    • In short I agree he’s a RINO. He does just enough to wag the tail of conservative voters and those that are easily fooled into believing he is a conservative. Fact is he allowed the budget to balloon and his C-19 response was functionally similar to Gavin Newsome’s policies. Going so far as to sending out an e-mail to Pastors on Easter telling them what is “allowed”…………is an affront to freedom. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a few fluff pieces by party operatives with web pages won’t change this reality. We need to find our equivalent to Kristi Noem, and dump this overgrown RINO.

      • Well you hear wrong, Mongo Like Candy. You know nothing about the Governor or what it takes to run a state. Did you know Alaska is the first state to completely open up? Even before Noem’s state. If you look on the website from beginning it stated the “mandates” even called that were never mandated and were suggestions. I heard him personally say many times the state of Alaska would never shut anyone down. It is obvious you don’t know what you are talking about so you just throw insults and slurs to something.

    • Larry, so based on what information you were getting on a minute by minute basis, not looking in hind sight but what he had to deal with at the time, What would you have done different?
      I can think of one thing that I may have done. I would to have talked to WY, SD Governors of why they were doing what they were doing. Maybe he did, no idea.
      Yep, now we know the models were terrible, we now know how the mentality of people like Dr Zink think (extreme do no harm), What we don’t know is the advise the AG gave him, I’m sure that was in the mix.
      I give the Governor a A- to A, so glad I didn’t have to make the decisions he had to. Like he said in the interview, he was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t

      • Within 30 hours of research this thing started to look like 95% a sham. My first clue was nobody shut down the economy to stop the 125,000 abortions daily, 785 million without access to clean water, 2 Billion without a toilet and clean sanitation, 3700 people per day die globally in traffic deaths, cancer, heart disease, etc. Where is the stop everything in it’s tracks response to these and other health and safety issues? Not saying nothing needed to be done. A week after a reasonable knee jerk response I would think a leader would ratchet back and think about what’s really happening. My other chief complaint is only one set of medical experts seem to have been consulted. Many docs are coming forward in disagreement. Where was the healthy and deeper level dialogues made available to the public for a real education and sensible response. Instead we got indoctrination and fear.

        Governor and staff are 45% below an F minus in my grading book.

        • Governor’s biggest concern was that the virus would get into the villages and wipe them out like the Spanish flu. Having lived and worked in rural AK for many years I truly understand they did not have the resources to deal with an outbreak. Most would have been flown into Anchorage. Wow. I can hear the screaming it would have been. The media and feds scared the hell out of many people, not just the Governor of this great state.

  • It is not amazing that liberals or Rinos who apparently know more about what the Governor should have done than the experts that have spent their entire lives studying and working with deadly viruses. First this virus 🦠 is not a fake or sham or just another bad flu season. It is totally irrelevant to make comparisons to other death causing events like traffic fatalities, starvation, water or poverty. Mankind has been working to help all those programs but they are not contagious 😷 deadly problems that need immediate intervention to control there spread and death toll. Traffic fatalities are lower now than they were 10 years ago. More people have clean water, food and sanitation than ever before.

    This virus 🦠 can be compared to the Black Death 💀, and Spanish Flu of 1918. Instead of the CDC and experts that have devoted their lives to studying how to best protect us from the virus 🦠 you advocate adopting the voices of doctors that may have little or no qualifications and have their own motivations for speaking out. Studies and models are only as good as the information and results at the time. Once used and new information becomes available they are changed or ruled out. Mostly after the fact but widely accepted before new information is discovered.

    Today we have a society that has to many people that have to object and attack everyone or policy of anyone that they don’t like proposes. It is always easier to attack and be an expert in hindsight than stand up a make the difficult decisions in foresight? It has also become a reality that false information and lies/half truths are more popular that facts and truth. Like the Governor said he thought that no matter what decision he made he would be criticized and couldn’t win.

    Before you chant the often false “They violated our Constitutional Rights try to research the case law, Supreme Court decisions and opinions of Constitutional lawyers. What are the powers of government officials during National Emergencies and Health Pandemics. Nothing our Governor did violated anyone’s Constitutional rights. If the President or our Governor violated anyone’s Constitutional rights the MSM and every Trump and Governor Dunleavy hater would have filed court cases to stop everything thing they did. They have with every other policy the President has tried to implement. Partisan lower court judges granting stays and injunctions that are only overturned by higher courts and finally the Supreme Court.

    Wouldn’t our State be a better State to live in if we all could join together to improve and recover instead of continuing this false partisan and ignorant fighting. Drop the recall and put your money in efforts to helping AK.

    The legislature is responsible for the PFD and Alaskans not being paid and the bloated budgets. We have had low oil prices before during the Knowles Administration ($9 per barrel) and the State survived. The Governor only proposes the budget but like they legislators boast. He is powerless to to spend or cut any money they do not allow him to. They control the appropriations and budget. Alaskans have warned for years this day of reckoning would come and the legislators did nothing but spend every dollar they could. Shouldn’t they be in Juneau now trying to figure out how to help Alaskans and fix the budget? They have the power to vote to spend a portion of the PF corpus with a vote of the people. The rainy day is here! Alaskans need money to feed families and businesses to survive. The economy and budget needs to be supported now!

    Not a partisan statement as both parties refuse to pay Alaskans. The Governor has no power to change that. He has tried but the legislature refuses. They have done doing for Alaskans except to delay the distribution of Federal Cares Act funds as long as they could. If fact they have done nothing except rush home and collect their salary and per diem unlike many Alaskans and other State employees. They believe they are non-essential workers to do their jobs or help during this crisis. I believe that all Alaskans should agree with them during the upcoming primaries and election and send them home without their salaries and per diem. This group is truly not essential to Alaskans.

    • You should apply to write for the Onion or Babylon Bee.

    • Well stated and thought through.

  • Scam news! I hope Dunleavy and the legislature get sued for violating and infringing on our constitutional rights. My body-my choice. The goal was socialism and it was successful. Over 35 percent of small businesses could not afford to reopen. They didn’t get Unimployment, only a few got the disaster relief, the ppp is a loan with tons of penalties and cares act primarily funded the government and the large businesses government favored. Small business was starved out of business. The oppression he “helped” put on them is horrific and he needs to be exposed. How many businesses shut down? What are those stats? How many people died of domestic violence while under house arrest? What are those stats? How many people committed suicide (up by 1000 percent) because they didn’t have access to the doctors they needed or resources? What are those stats? How many people will loose their homes because they were forced out of their job on house arrest while the mortgage companies refused to do deferments. They won’t forclose during COVID. But once the house arrest is lifted and businesses open they have 2-3-4 house payments due with many having no job. Small business can’t afford to have employees like they used to before governments PLANDEMIC. I pray all those people get justice at the legislature and Dunleavy expense.

    • With you on the lawsuit. It should be a class action !

  • Katherine, you titled your comments for accurately as SCAM NEWS. All of your misinformed allegations and wild assumptions have little basis in fact. Mortgage companies are deferring back payments, my mental health provider has had more contact with me via tele-link than we had by physical appointment. I was able to have my doctors appointment by telephone also. You can’t provide any factual information to support most of your allegations about the CARES Act and the small business loans and grants, as the figures of the businesses are published.

    Just more progressive socialist hate spewing against the governor and president that the left must utter. The right to determine what happens to your body stops were you perform actions that endanger my life and others. Learn by researching the US Supreme Court decisions on powers of the government during health emergencies. A little education and you might be eligible to join the GOP.

  • Michael. How about this statement

    ” There will be another surge of virus, and maybe another one after that until an effective vaccine is available, Dunleavy said. The surges will not care that there’s an economic crisis afoot. ”

    Must be the go nowhere statement but all out destruction of our state & country if they ( The Kool Aid Drinkers ) get their way … that includes BIG MIKE!

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