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We Build Alaska

Anchorage must have a long-term strategy to address COVID

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.

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. 

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Lynn Willis
2 years ago

Great article. Thank you for to Bill Evans for writing this article and Jeff Landfield for publishing it. Dunleavy’s initial approach to COVID was amazingly successful and now it is is failing exactly for the same reason Trump’s approach is failing – no cohesive policy guidance “from the top”. Ask anyone with military experience how successful any operation would be if a Division Commander left it up to each subordinate Brigade to fight the battle on it’s own – including procuring it’s own logistic support. Despite the best efforts Anchorage with thousands of commuters entering and leaving each day cannot… Read more »

Areal Bilk
2 years ago
Reply to  Lynn Willis

A good reply… But Evans neglected to criticize Gov. Dunleavy and focused entirely on the Mayor. It would seem if he was truly advocating a policy shift he would highlight the disconnect between the governor and the mayor. Is Evans advocating for stronger oversight from Dunleavy? Specifics would be nice.

Areal Bilk
2 years ago

You want a plan? Goto and read what is in place. If Evans can offer detailed rebuttals to this plan I’m all ears – but opinions criticizing the plan, but not offering solutions are not helpful.

Frannie B
2 years ago
Reply to  Areal Bilk

Lol. The mayor has decided to keep internal council on policy responses. The mask order was dropped without discussion with businesses on rollout despite the fact that they’d be the ones rolling it out. This order comes a week after the last one, with no explanation aside from ‘previous trends continued for a week despite our last order, which we have since decided didn’t go far enough’. Say what you will about appropriateness of the level of response (I think it has been consistently appropriate) but the “plan” you reference is a combination of what restrictions are currently in place… Read more »

Frank Rast
2 years ago
Reply to  Frannie B

Mayor Begich is following CDC guidelines in his administrative orders, what guidelines do you or Mr Evans recommend?

Areal Bilk
2 years ago
Reply to  Frannie B

And if the mayor had taken a stronger hand regarding masks and implemented some sort of enforcement strategy then you would be all up in arms about how he’s overstepping legal boundaries. Which would you prefer? A draconian policy where police fine or jail people for refusing to wear masks – or an approach where the order is implied but not enforced? As for the methodology behind the roadmap… you’ll have to watch Falsey’s 1+hr weekly COVID reports to understand those. The plan wasn’t just created out of thin air. And finally… Evans isn’t advocating anything. He just saying he… Read more »