Alaska governor on COVID-19: ‘It’s been a nightmare for all of us’

Gov. Mike Dunleavy hopes summer tourism will boost economic recovery.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses a crowd in Kenai on April 6, 2021.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses a crowd in Kenai on April 6, 2021.(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:05 PM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:06 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s News Source spoke with Gov. Mike Dunleavy this week in Kenai, where he announced his pick for a new public safety commissioner. While there, he had a few moments to talk about a range of topics, from his personal health to summer tourism.

It should be no surprise that recovering from COVID-19 — on all fronts — is top of mind.

“Hopefully we’re doing all we can to put this thing behind us. It’s been a nightmare for all of us,” the governor told an audience gathered Tuesday at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center to hear him appoint Col. James Cockrell as his nominee for public safety commissioner.

Dunleavy told the crowd that, while it’s been a rough year, things are looking up.

“With the vaccination rates and the management of the virus, from our perspective we are putting that in the rear view mirror,” Dunleavy said. “We’re moving ahead.”

A slight hoarseness was detectable in the governor’s voice as he spoke. After the press conference, he told Alaska’s News Source that six weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, he still has a lingering cough. He’s otherwise feeling fine, he said, and said a vaccine shot is in his future.

“As soon as my doc tells me I can get it, because I was infected so they’re waiting for a time period and once that happens, I will,” he said.

Dunleavy doesn’t expect every Alaskan to make the same choice.

“For those that wish to get a vaccination, that’s totally up to them — that tool is available,” he said. “For those that don’t, that’s totally up to them. That’s up to their own personal choice, but I think Alaska is going to be in great shape regardless.”

Regarding vaccines in the workplace, Dunleavy said “there will be no statewide mandate to compel employees to have vaccines. That’s going to be up to individual, private business decision.”

As for the health of the state overall, Dunleavy is optimistic about the months ahead.

“There’s a lot of folks booking travel to the playground of Alaska, so I think you’re going to see a lot of tourists here this year,” he said. “I think you’re going to see business pick up.”

While tourism appears to be picking up, he said crime during the pandemic, went down.

“It was probably COVID related, but we did have a decrease this year of about 10% in crime across the state,” he said.

During the press conference, the governor pledged to hire more troopers, and said the state is having success solving cold cases and clearing backlogged sexual assault kits.

And when Alaskans pick up the phone for help, “the goal is eventually, sooner than later, to make sure that everyone has 911 service, that they can call in,” he said.

The governor made it clear that from his view, while the pandemic isn’t over, better days are ahead.

“We see the daylight and we are getting out of the darkness,” he said.

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