State will let health care providers resume elective procedures, allows takeout alcohol

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy speak at a news conference on Monday, April, 6, 2020. (Governor’s office photo)

Alaska health care providers will again be able to perform elective procedures. Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the change at the daily COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday. 

Dunleavy said the state is getting a handle on the personal protective equipment needed by health care workers and that’s allowing the change. 

“We figure that with the metrics that we can watch very carefully, we can fine-tune this approach and that, in the end, it would be better off that we begin the process of opening this sector up now,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy and health officials plan to issue a new mandate on elective procedures on Wednesday. Details of the changes, including when they go into effect, weren’t available on Tuesday evening. 

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Dunleavy said the state will be monitoring any increase in the number of people with the virus, with the goal of keeping within the capacity of the health care system. 

He said Alaskans will continue to practice social distancing — like staying six feet away from others — until there’s a way to prevent or treat the disease. 

“There are still going to be things that we can’t do — or we’re going to have to do very differently,” Dunleavy said. “But there are going to be more and more things that we used to do that we are going to be able to do in the future if we continue to practice some of these hygiene practices that we’ve talked about, but also some of the social distancing.”

State Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the state will make adjustments. 

“I think of it a lot like either trying to ski down a mountain or drive down a road,” Zink said. “We could just bomb our way down it, but there could be a lot of collateral damage in the process. And so we’re trying to mindfully make those turns, to put on the brakes, to be able to do this in a controlled fashion, as we’re building up supplies, as we are getting treatment and hopefully a vaccine.”

Dunleavy also announced that people ordering meals from restaurants and bars will be able to have beer or wine included. 

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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