Legislators wary of governor’s premature decision to end disaster declaration

Rep. Zulkosky: 'While we are all ready for a return to normalcy, today's action could have very consequential outcomes'

JUNEAU – Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a proclamation today that formally rejects the advice of public health officials, business leaders, and countless other Alaskans who helped develop important legislation full of tools that our state needs to end the COVID-19 pandemic.


After the governor signed House Bill 76 into law, he promptly ended the disaster declaration.


“The House Coalition worked collaboratively with frontline health workers, hospital leaders, and business owners to provide practical tools needed to end the pandemic,” Speaker Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) said. “Unfortunately, the governor opted for politics over policy and decided to gamble with the health of Alaskans and with our economic recovery.”


“With thousands of potentially unvaccinated individuals traveling to Alaska and many unknowns about the impacts of COVID-19 variants, I pray this decision will not have disastrous consequences,” Rep. Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham). “I applaud the governor’s leadership over the last year, including his focus on a safe and successful fishing season, but am dumbfounded by a unilateral move to eliminate tools we may need during a busy tourism and fishing season that will attract thousands of visitors.”


“Because of the governor’s decision today, Alaska is officially following in the footsteps of Michigan’s pandemic response, an approach that led to the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country as young, healthy Americans are filling hospital wards and the vast majority of people remain unvaccinated,” added Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel). “While we are all ready for a return to normalcy, today’s action could have very consequential outcomes.”


“Today’s decision puts small businesses, our limited state resources, and the health of Alaskans at risk,” Rep. Liz Snyder (D-Anchorage) said. “The policy established through the proclamation is appealing on the surface but actually rejects practical steps to end the pandemic and permanently reopen Alaska’s economy.”


The governor’s proclamation:


·    immediately ends the public health disaster emergency declaration, increasing government regulations and removing important emergency powers;

·    limits the governor’s ability to manage airport testing initiatives and other vital public health efforts to control problems that may arise during the busy summer season;

·    ends the relaxation of regulations related to professional and occupational licensing;

·    restricts the ability of doctors to provide telemedicine to patients and allows price hikes for telehealth services;

·    eliminates expanded protection for first responders who previously were presumed to be eligible for workers’ compensation if they contracted COVID-19; and

·    diminishes the ability of individuals to object to the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.


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