Anchorage Assembly expedites confirmation hearing for Bronson’s health director appointee

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 7:57 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly is expediting the confirmation process for Mayor Dave Bronson’s health director appointee, David Morgan, in response to concerns over comments Morgan has made about the pandemic.

Morgan is serving as acting director of the Anchorage Health Department, pending assembly approval. A vote on his confirmation that was originally planned for Aug. 24 is now set for Aug. 10 and the assembly has scheduled a work session to meet with Morgan for an hour on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

“There have been some questions raised about the background of this individual ... statements made in the public and on social media certainly raise questions of qualification,” Assembly Vice Chair Christopher Constant said during an interview on Friday. “And so that’s what we’ll get to the bottom of here pretty soon.”

Recent concerns stem, in part, from comments Morgan made during an interview with Alaska’s News Source on Wednesday. He was reluctant to say that the pandemic is ongoing, instead saying, “It’s a personal view kind of thing ... Pandemic is an adjective that describes a situation.”

On Thursday, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink delivered opening remarks during a videoconference with news reporters and provided the definition of a pandemic, noting that the World Health Organization currently classifies COVID-19 as a pandemic.

“A pandemic is a disease that spreads quickly across large geographical areas like a continent or the world,” Zink said, offering clarification.

The health director appointee’s comments about the pandemic sparked sharp criticism online and, according to Constant, raised the significance of Morgan’s confirmation hearing.

“Every person who comes before us as a nominee by the mayor will receive a fair hearing and I look forward to that process going forward,” said Constant. “It’ll be respectful, you know, we want to make sure people are comfortable coming in, and there won’t be any questions unasked.”

Friday, Morgan agreed to another interview.

“I was concentrating on the concept of an emergency and, because we were talking about policy stuff,” he said, addressing his comments about the pandemic. “It is, it is a pandemic, if you’re unvaccinated. I will, I feel that way — my understanding of my experience in health care. If you’re unvaccinated ... you are in a pandemic.”

Morgan provided his resume, said he has worked in health care for close to 40 years and presented his completed COVID-19 vaccination card, saying he wanted to clear up any misconceptions about his stance on vaccinations.

“I think they’re jumping to a little bit of a conclusion that I don’t believe that we’ve got a problem,” he said, in response to the fact that some have voiced concerns about him as an appointee. “I have to deal with it twice a day for sure and most of the day, dealing with this virus and what it’s doing ... creating such havoc in our medical system.”

Morgan said during the time he’s been serving as acting health department director for the city, he’s done everything he can to bolster the city’s effort to facilitate COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.

It’s an effort that seems to clash with the mayor’s personal beliefs. On Thursday, Bronson called the vaccine “experimental” and told reporters he has no intention right now of getting vaccinated for COVID-19. He has previously contracted the disease, and has reported suffering long-term symptoms.

READ MORE: Anchorage mayor calls COVID-19 vaccine ‘experimental.’ His chief medical officer says it’s the ‘most important’ tool.

When asked whether public messaging from the city’s health officials urging vaccination is effective while the mayor simultaneously chooses not to get vaccinated himself, Morgan said, “Well I don’t know, I’m not a public relations expert.”

“If you have had the virus, that you do have some immunity, is what our medical team has said,” he continued. “And so, that is one point. Vaccines is the best coverage, but the mayor is the mayor and we report to the mayor, but we send our recommendations based on our experts and our staff go to him, and then he makes a decision.”

When asked why he wants the job, Morgan said, “I thought it would be a very interesting job and I think some public, doing public service, we all should do that. We should help out as best we can.”

Constant said some assembly members had concerns about Morgan prior to this week, but concerns voiced to him by constituents picked up on Thursday.

Assembly member Felix Rivera said he was also aware of some complaints regarding Morgan’s past experience and public statements.

“People are emailing the entire assembly with some concerns about Mr. Morgan’s appointment,” he said.

Reached by phone Friday, assembly member Jamie Allard she doesn’t have any reservations about confirming Morgan.

“Dave Morgan is highly qualified and I think it brings diversity to the city to have different opinions, just like it would on any body,” she said. “In the assembly we have different opinions and I think his thoughts are welcomed and his professional opinions are welcomed as well.”

The assembly’s public work session to consider Morgan’s appointment is scheduled for noon on Tuesday, Aug. 3, at Anchorage City Hall.

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