COVID-19 discussions take center stage as pandemic pushes AFN convention online

The annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention usually brings thousands of people together to discuss important Indigenous issues
Dr. Anne Zink discusses coronavirus impacts on Alaska on the first day of the Alaska Federation...
Dr. Anne Zink discusses coronavirus impacts on Alaska on the first day of the Alaska Federation of Natives virtual convention.(AFN)
Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 2:48 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -The Alaska Federation of Natives would usually bring thousands of people from around the state together in Anchorage.

This year’s convention, however, is all online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will use all the technology at hand to conduct our business. Of course, it’s nothing like an in-person convention. We ask for your patience as we virtually gather together from across the state and across the nation,” said AFN co-chair Ana Hoffman as she opened the convention.

Discussions on COVID-19 dominated the morning session on the first day of the conference.

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, was one of three people who lead a panel called, “Coping with COVID.”

Zink said Alaska is currently third in the nation for conducting the most testing, but coronavirus cases continue to climb.

Saturday, Oct. 11, reported the highest amount of COVID-19 cases Alaska has seen in a single day. Thursday marked the 22nd consecutive day of the state reporting 100-plus daily COVID-19 cases.

Zink said multiple agencies are working together to submit a vaccine plan. She said there could be some limited vaccine distribution in Alaska before the end of the year.

“The initial data is promising. I don’t want to over-promise what a vaccine will or won’t do. I think will be in it for a while with public health measures,” Zink said. “I think a vaccine will really be a game-changer in being able to protect those who are most vulnerable to the disease.”

House Representative Tiffany Zulkosky from Bethel said Alaskans need to work together to slow the spread of the virus.

“This pandemic has illuminated how interconnected we all are. How the actions of someone in Anchorage affects the lives of people in Bethel. This same way the decisions of a person in Kotzebue affect the health of people in Kiana,” she said.

AFN leaders also encouraged everyone to make sure they’re counted for the 2020 census which closes Thursday.

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