Speaker Louise Stutes sent a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday saying that it’s not safe to be in Juneau because of Covid-19, and therefore she wants the Special Session, due to start Monday, to be cancelled.
In reality, Juneau is the home of some of the most Covid-vaccinated people in America, and may be the safest place in the state for lawmakers. But Stutes doesn’t want to risk it.
According to the most recent data available from the New York Times, 89 percent of Juneauites over the age of 65 are vaccinated for Covid-19, while 77 percent over the age of 18 are vaccinated for it, and 76 percent of those over the age of 12 are vaccinated.
Stutes said in her letter, “Alaska is currently experiencing its highest infection rate-the most per capita in the nation-of the COVID-I9 pandemic. You have wisely safeguarded the health of departmental employees by directing them to work from home until further notice, yet you ask that 60 legislators plus staff return to Juneau to conduct in
person proceedings. Including partisan and support staff, the health of hundreds of people will be put at risk to address items that we have yet to gain consensus on. Cost is another factor that should be considered. it would be incredibly costly to the state to engage the legislature for yet a fourth special session,” she said.
Stutes said in her letter that the supplemental dividend is not important enough to call a special session:
“Throughout the year. we have worked in good faith towards a fiscal plan and that will continue regardless. A special session is not necessary for the legislature to continue its work. Committees can continue hearings. have ample time to involve the public. and craft good public policy that has been well vetted. The legislature has passed a balanced budget, avoided burdening Alaskans with taxes, and provided an $1,100 PFD. Legislators are dedicated to achieving a complete solution and we will continue to work diligently towards that end,” she wrote.
Juneau rates itself in the “red” zone for Covid. CovidActNow, a group whose board members include Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, rates Juneau’s risk as “very low” and at the same time says the risk is “severe.” Kreiss-Tompkins told the Legislature in 2020 that Covid would be a die-off event for Alaska, with tens of thousands of deaths.
Juneau’s vaccination rate is higher than the top cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland. Juneau’s Bartlett Memorial Hospital has open beds in all departments, according to the most recent State data: