Anchorage Assembly urges Dunleavy and Alaska’s delegation to do more to fight COVID-19

The Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage.
The Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage. (Staff photo)

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution urging Gov. Dunleavy and Alaska’s congressional delegation to do more to help Alaska combat its rapidly growing number of COVID-19 cases and the economic damage caused by the pandemic.

Assemblywoman Suzanne LaFrance submitted the resolution, which initially stopped at thanking the governor for his emergency message last week. Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar proposed an amendment calling on the governor to issue a statewide mask mandate and to urge Alaska’s congressional delegation and outgoing president Donald Trump to quickly pass a second round of COVID disaster economic relief. 

“I believe that there is no real way to stop the spread of this virus, without significant economic relief will allow certain businesses to temporarily close and the only entity with the financial resources that could allow that to happen is the federal government.”

A statewide mask mandate, Dunbar argued, would supplement Anchorage’s own mask mandate and help prevent spread along the road system, including the Mat-Su and Kenai Peninsula boroughs, which rely on Anchorage hospitals to care for patients with acute needs. 

Dunbar pointed to North Dakota, which like Alaska, had a public health strategy based on personal responsibility, rather than government mandate. It now has the world’s highest COVID mortality rate, and Republican Gov. Doug Bergum this week issued a statewide mask mandate and gathering limitations

A Centers for Disease Control study in Arizona found mandatory masking and gathering limitations dropped community spread significantly.

Dunleavy’s message last Thursday urged Alaskans to tighten up their COVID-19 prevention behaviors, wearing masks as much as possible, hand-washing and social distancing. With all areas of the state at the highest alert levels, he said health care workers and first responders are “being infected at unprecedented rates.” 

While he did extend the state’s emergency declaration for another 30 days, he did not issue any statewide measures like a mask mandate or gathering limitations.

With Dunbar’s amendment, the final resolution passed 9-1, with Eagle River-Chugiak Assemblywoman Jamie Allard voting against.