Alaska Governor Makes New Emergency Virus Declaration

November 10, 2020

Alaska’s governor has announced a new COVID-19 disaster declaration for the state that will take effect Nov. 16 and last 30 days.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the updated declaration on Friday, ahead of the scheduled expiration of the emergency declaration he issued in March.

Dunleavy said he took action because of “the rise in cases, and given the uncertainty over the next two to three months,” he said.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Saturday reported that the state hit a daily record in newly confirmed coronavirus cases.

The state reported 604 cases, the highest in a single day since Oct. 25. Alaska has had 19,306 confirmed cases and 79 deaths since the pandemic outbreak as of Saturday.

“I continue to work with the Legislature to see if we can get a session called by the Legislature so that we can act upon this,” Dunleavy said.

Republican Senate President Cathy Giessel and independent House Speaker Bryce Edgmon had asked the governor to call the Legislature into special session to extend the declaration. State law requires the Legislature to vote on whether declarations will last more than 30 days.

Giessel said in a statement following Dunleavy’s announcement that the Legislature could meet before Nov. 15.

“It’s concerning to me that the governor has chosen this far more arbitrary and tenuous course of action,” she said.

Dunleavy had not previously clarified whether he would extend the declaration, prompting the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association to demand action from the governor earlier Friday. Association CEO Jared Kosin said the move was unprecedented for the association.

“This shows where we all stand. Where we are with the numbers today is not acceptable, and we will not make it through this unless we change our actions,” Kosin said.

Dunleavy said if Alaskans fail to change their behavior and case rates remain high, hospitals will be overwhelmed and hospital workers and members of police forces and the military will fall ill.

“I’m not saying this to scare you,” Dunleavy said. “I just want us all to work together a little bit, readjust how we do things, so that we can get through the next two months.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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