Any response or comments regarding Anchorage’s response to COVID is immediately filtered through the lens of intense partisanship, which is unfortunate as that does little to actually solve a great public problem. Be that as it may, I do have some concerns about the recent (again) closures.
I believe it is critically important for government to be looking for long term solutions for how we operate as a society with COVID in our midst. I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but there is a reasonable chance that we will not soon be saved by a vaccine. There have been some disheartening studies that indicate that even those who are infected with the virus may not be developing long-term immunity. In other words, this may not be a one and done virus. Thus the concept of “herd immunity” and a long-term vaccine may not be realistic. That means that we have to be prepared to deal with this virus on a potentially sustained basis.
Because of that I believe it is critically important that government officials develop strategies designed to get businesses and our livelihoods through this virus for the long-haul. Accordingly, temporary shutdowns of entire business sectors is not a good solution, unless you are willing to do it again and again as the virus continues.
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The COVID-19 virus is no hoax. It is a significant public health problem and should be treated seriously. People who can should wear masks when around others. People should use common sense and socially distance whenever possible. People and organizers should avoid events which create a needless risk of significant spread. This is a public health issue and it requires a public effort to contain it. The problem cannot, and should not be solved by a handful of officials picking who is protected and who is sacrificed.
Emergency councils representing various industries should be established to work together with the administration in addressing health concerns for their industry. The administration needs to know what is possible and what is not possible in keeping various industries viable during this virus. People have dedicated their lives to many of these businesses and they should be involved in a more direct manner in determining their path forward. They should be treated as valuable partners in the fight, not as children subject to paternal protection.
Significant efforts should be directed into measures which have proven effective in stemming this virus in other locations. Testing, contact tracing, and subsequent isolation have been shown to work in many other places. We need to put more emphasis and resources in these areas that allow us to sensibly work our way through this virus with a long-term strategy.
Repeated short-term shutdowns are not a good solution for a long-term persistent virus. We may get lucky and COVID-19 will become less virulent or less impactful as it mutates. But we don’t know that yet. Right now we are in a marathon battle and we need marathon based solutions.
This is gut check time for us as a community and for our government. Let’s all do better.
Bill Evans is a candidate for Anchorage mayor. He has been a practicing attorney for 22 years focusing on management side labor and employment law. He represented South Anchorage on the Anchorage Assembly from 2014-2017.