Wall Street Journal: Alaska rolled out a model COVID-19 testing program - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, September 24, 2020
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Wall Street Journal: Alaska rolled out a model COVID-19 testing program

The Wall Street Journal on Saturday wrote that Alaska’s COVID-19 testing program is a stand-out in the nation.

Writer Scott Patterson has been on the COVID testing beat for months. He wanted to know how Gov. Mike Dunleavy had been able to execute such a robust testing program across such a expansive and difficult state.

Patterson’s story describes what happened in January, when Dunleavy’s office was contacted by the U.S. State Department, warning it was evacuating 201 Americans out of Wuhan, China, on a flight that would stop in Anchorage for refueling.

“Something’s not right here,” Mr. Dunleavy told the reporter, recalling his reaction to that call. The governor and his staff realized the coronavirus outbreak in China was more serious than people knew.

Dunleavy, whose Alaska Native in-laws in the Kotzebue region have stories to tell about family members dying in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that hit Alaska Natives hard, didn’t want to see this novel coronavirus get anywhere near the villages and rural hamlets.

“We stood up our disaster team,” he told Patterson.

“As the coronavirus pandemic surged across the U.S. this spring, Alaska faced a raft of unique obstacles. Despite the hurdles, Alaska was able to carry out what proved to be a robust testing program,” Patterson wrote in a long-form story.

In fact, this summer Alaska tested more people per capita than any other state in the U.S., according to Worldometers. And the state ranks only behind Rhode Island for the lowest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita, Patterson wrote. Fish-packing plants have been an exception to the rule in Alaska, he wrote. Other than those, Alaska has avoided a surge in cases and deaths.

“Alaska stands out as an example of a state that, in the absence of a centralized testing operation by the federal government, managed to cobble together a program that helped state and tribal officials track the outbreak. Spurred by its tragic experience a century ago, Alaska scrambled to stand up its testing platform even before there were signs the virus was spreading in the state,” Patterson wrote.

The story, behind the Wall Street Journal paywall, also describes how the Dunleavy Administration worked to get testing swabs and kits manufactured in the state, as there was a national shortage. And it describes how the state swiftly implemented rapid testing, because rural Alaska is not able to wait for days or weeks to get results back from the city labs.

“The state had also implemented testing at its airports, where thousands of seasonal fishing workers were pouring in, adding further demand,” Patterson wrote.

“The state scrambled to get new capacity. Early on, as the pandemic began spreading across the country, it had purchased testing kits from an out-of-state lab that had gone unused. The kits were deployed to the main airport in Anchorage. The Alaska Native Medical Center, one of the state’s largest hospitals, installed a high-throughput testing machine. The state also deployed more rapid-test supplies to rural communities and contracted with an out-of-state lab to process airport tests.

The steps the Administration took helped Alaska avoid the breakdown in testing that plagued a number of other states in late June and July, he wrote. “By having a more diverse testing regime—a combination of state and tribal labs, rapid tests and out-of-state capacity, Alaska was less vulnerable to supply-chain issues or mechanical failures.”

The story can be found at this link, which is behind a paywall.

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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

  • Dems were pushing a recall effort all through Dunleavy’s excellent Covid response. Pathetic.

  • Testing simply perpetuates the myth that the so-called virus presents a real risk to the public. Trump is opposed to more testing and I don’t understand why our governor is disobeying the commander in chief. If Dunleavy keeps this up he’s getting recalled.

  • Not so fast… correlation is not causation. Dunleavy claims he just knew “something was not right,” but it was probably him.

    The latest study in the Lancet medical journal indicates that ““Government actions such as border closures, full lockdowns, and a high rate of COVID-19 testing were not associated with statistically significant reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality.”
    So, the lockdown and widespread testing may have actually done nothing other than trample our rights and freedoms and wreck our economy and communities.

    In fact Alaskans may have already had COVID at least by January, when very many of us had a mysterious, very contagious flu. And why would this NOT be the case, given the number of Chinese aircraft that come through Ted Stevens International and the fact that we even had an airplane mechanic from Wuhan, China – really – come and give classes and leave a whole shop in his wake with “the flu” in January.

    It looks like Sweden’s policy response to COVID-19 infections (no shutdowns, no masks and no widespread testing) was most likely the most effective plan. Sweden’s daily death count in mid-July is in the single digits and they barely even have any new cases.
    Herd immunity.

    No creepy vaccines (or unconstitutional lockdowns, or wildly unreliable testing, or Orwellian contact tracing) needed.

    • I agree

    • Well stated.

  • Scott Kendall, with Bill Walker leading in the background. What cowards!

    • Walker has plenty of his own demons. Prior knowledge of Mallott’s proclivities and appetites for underage girls. And, using his executive powers to deny every Alaskan their full PFD. His desire to be a dictator backfired. A lonely old man, with a few lawyer friends. Pathetic guy.

  • Yeah. Even Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham was smart enough to shut up. He walked into a teacher in-service meeting a year ago and proudly announced that if the governor didn’t do what Bruce wanted him to do, he would get rid of him. I was there. I heard it. Now with his cronies getting fired, he is wearing an egg face mask.

  • This can’t be true because Tall Man Bad. The recall guys will be very disappointed. Cheers –

  • The PCR test is total BS, all it does is create fall positives that is then used to drive the Fear and install unconstitutional totalitarian mandates. Dunleavy might as well be a Demoncrat Marxists at this point as his Covid-1984 Policies are in line with other Leftist Governors. I wasn’t for the recall, but I am sure in favor of him being Primaried out by a true conservative.

    • Absolutely agree!
      Where can we find a candidate for governor similar to Bronson (who’s running for Anchorage mayor)?

  • Some people never learn. Their minds are closed.

    • You and I being the exceptions, of course.

      • Of course. And most of the lower 48. I went into Walmart the other day and I didn’t see anybody not wearing a mask and this was in hodunk Florida which has probably the lowest amount of infection in the whole state.

        • Hold on…for weeks you’ve been harping on wearing masks because you’ve got stacks of coffins all over and are “seeing death every day” (which of course begs the question – why so many deaths with so many masks)? But now you’re wearing masks because you’ve got the lowest infection rate in the state?

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