Dunleavy asks Alaskans to be aware of COVID-19 pandemic misinformation

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, left, chats with Sen. Roger Holland, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, before the start of the floor session of the Alaska State Senate on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Peter Segall/AP)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy warned Alaskans about “misinformation” regarding the pandemic and his administration’s response. He encouraged people to challenge false allegations.

“Ask them to show you the data. Ask them to show you a memo, a letter. That we are contemplating martial law — that’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s never happened. Ask the individual or individuals that are spreading this misinformation.” 

Dunleavy first addressed the issue during a news briefing Wednesday, after Jeff Landfield of The Alaska Landmine asked about comments by Sen. Lora Reinbold, an Eagle River  Republican. Reinbold has likened the state’s COVID-19 response to living under martial law. 

RELATED: Alaska’s top doctor says misinformation hurts vaccination effort

The governor said his administration would work with all legislators. And after a pause, he added: “We have no intention of declaring martial law.”

The governor circled back to the topic of martial law near the end of the briefing. He launched into comments on misinformation. 

“For those who say, and continue to say, that we are contemplating things like martial law, that we are contemplating things like forced vaccination, that we’re making this out to be a police state, or some type of Stalinist state — they’re just completely wrong,” Dunleavy said. “And I think they’re doing all of us a disservice.”

He asked Alaskans to critically examine their information sources. 

“I would ask all Alaskans — it doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on — do a little more homework,” he said. “I think in some cases you’re being misled, to the detriment of Alaska.”

Dunleavy has taken criticism from public health advocates who urged him to impose a statewide mask mandate, which he declined to do. But in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings chaired by Reinbold, the administration’s pandemic response has been criticized for going too far.

Dunleavy described his administration’s approach as “threading the needle”: responding to the public health threat, while minimizing the harm of government action to lives and businesses.

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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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