Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a proclamation on Friday ending the COVID-19 disaster declaration in Alaska, immediately after he signed House Bill 76.
“Today I took immediate action to end the COVID-19 disaster declaration. Alaska is in the recovery phase where an emergency declaration is no longer necessary,” said Dunleavy. “Our systems are fully functioning with vaccine distribution, adequate testing, and health care capacity. It is important our focus remains on getting Alaska’s economy back on track and welcoming summer tourism throughout our great state. I am confident in our state’s future as we move forward.”
The Senate passed HB76, a bill extending Alaska’s disaster declaration on Wednesday followed by passage in the House on Thursday. A press release issued by Dunleavy’s office cites the ability of Federal COVID relief funds without charge back costs from the state treasury, estimated at $100 million on 2021.
“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.”
Senate President Peter Miccciche and Representative Cathy Tilton were in attendance for the signing of Dunleavy’s proclamation. By ending the disaster declaration after passing HB76, Dunleavy aims to continue vaccination distribution including SNAP benefits and offer “comprehensive liability protection” for Alaskan businesses. The proclamation follows a recommendation from Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum.
“While COVID-19 is still present in Alaska, the urgent nature of the pandemic has passed and we are no longer anticipating the widespread emergency that Alaska faced earlier in this pandemic,” wrote Commissioner Crum in a memo to the governor. “As a result of the state’s early containment efforts, we have established a comprehensive public health infrastructure to respond to COVID-19 that will remain in place as we continue to strive to keep infection rates low, testing availability high, and protect the capacity of our health care facilities to address cases of COVID-19, while accommodating all medical and health related issues that the residents of our state encounter.”
In a public Health Order to DHSS, Crum instructs actions to be taken that continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic by working with local, state, and Federal partners.
“I am proud to stand with Governor Dunleavy as Alaska transitions back to normalcy. Today, we celebrate the end of the emergency declaration thanks to innovative solutions in the Senate’s version of HB 76,” said Senator Micciche. “In collaboration with the administration and the House, this bill was designed to manage us out of the pandemic, while still protecting Alaskans. It will provide critical economic support to those harmed by local government actions, helping them rebuild their lives and regain financial independence. The emergency declaration is dead, and the tools are here for businesses to reopen, students to return to the classroom, and for all to enjoy the freedom of a pre-COVID Alaska.”
While the press release issued from Dunleavy’s office claims to ensure that the proclamation allows for the uninterrupted continuation of vaccine distribution, members of the Legislature did not all agree with the Governor.
“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.”