No one wants to see life and the economy return to normal more than the hardworking Alaskans who are the lifeblood of our great state. I include myself in that category. Every day, my team looks at the data to make informed decisions on what we need to do to get Alaskans back to work without jeopardizing public health. It’s not an either-or decision, but a delicate balancing act.
What is good for Alaska’s economy and good for the health of Alaskans are not in opposition to each other. We can and must contain the virus while also supporting Alaska’s families and businesses. Fewer deaths and hospitalizations mean better long-term economic outcomes. Ultimately, this is not just a battle against this disease. It is also a battle for a vibrant economy with more jobs, less unemployment, and less despair.
Alaskans have been making tremendous sacrifices to follow our health guidelines — staying home more than usual, avoiding crowds, and taking extra hygienic precautions while in public. Our overall statistics show these public health measures are working. From the beginning of this pandemic we knew that the numbers would increase. However, our goal was never to eliminate the virus, but to ensure the integrity of our healthcare capacity and treat those who became ill. With Alaskans working together as a team we have fared far better on a per capita basis than nearly all other states and our ability to treat people has remained strong.
Yes, we all miss Alaska as we knew it, especially during these summer months. But it’s important to remember that the true danger to Alaska’s economy does not come from the virus, but how we feel about and manage the virus.
A surge in cases requiring acute medical care would be devastating for Alaska’s people and its economy. If we experience a rapid increase in hospitalizations the problem could drag on longer. Even if businesses are open, they won’t feel confident investing in product or hiring staff if the future is uncertain. Additionally, the average person seeing a spike in illnesses and deaths, won’t feel comfortable engaging in the economic activity that our local businesses desperately need.
The quickest way back to a strong, vibrant Alaska is, ironically, a bit slower than we might like. I often refer to this as short-term pain for long-term gain. We’re fighting this illness with every tool we’ve got. As Alaska continues to reopen, we are monitoring and mitigating the increase in illnesses. Every day we review the data to make sure we are not moving faster than the ability of our health care facilities to keep up.
This is a time for patience and understanding as we navigate these ever-changing waters together. Make no mistake about it, Alaska will be back, stronger than ever. Most importantly, we will emerge as a wiser, more nimble state once we reach the other side of this pandemic.
It has been an honor to see Alaskans come together to fight this virus and to help others during this difficult time. We must unite around the common goal of taking individual responsibility to manage this virus. As we move forward, I am confident that Alaska will serve as an example of how to handle this healthcare crisis and keep residents safe, while also revitalizing and preserving our long-term economy.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy, elected in 2018, is the 12th governor of Alaska.