Although the state of Alaska currently has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the country, Governor Mike Dunleavy is focused on fighting federal vaccine mandates.
Dunleavy signed an administrative order on Tuesday that prohibits all state agencies from participating in or assisting in federal vaccine mandates for employers. The order also directs the state attorney general to review all federal vaccine mandates and seek ways to challenge them in court.
Alaska last week also joined with nine other states in filing a lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. And in an opinion piece published Monday on a far-right political website, Dunleavy vowed that Alaska would also take legal action against an upcoming Occupational Health and Safety Administration rule to force companies with 100 employees. or more to require vaccination or regular testing. White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday the rule would arrive in a few days.
Dunleavy argues that the federal warrants and rules are “unconstitutional” and “completely unnecessary” for the state of Alaska, which has only vaccinated 53 percent of its population. The Republican governor says Alaska has “handled COVID better than almost any other state in the United States.” He boasted that the state had never had a mask warrant and ended its declaration of emergency before other states. The state has also never stopped healthcare providers from offering unproven and potentially harmful treatments for COVID-19, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, Dunleavy proudly noted. And, so far, Alaska has the fourth lowest COVID-19 death rate among states.
But Alaska also has the second highest COVID-19 case rate in the country, with 19,000 cases per 100,000 people since the start of the pandemic, according to the New York Times data tracking. Alaska is just behind North Dakota, with 19,584 cases per 100,000 total during the pandemic. And Alaska currently has the highest daily case rate of any state or jurisdiction in the country, with 82 daily cases per 100,000 population. The state is now reporting a seven-day average of around 600 new cases per day, up from a peak of over 1,300 at the end of September.
Last month, in the midst of the state’s delta wave peak, officials in Alaska activated emergency crisis protocols at 20 medical facilities, allowing healthcare providers to ration care in the middle of a crush of COVID-19 patients.
Dunleavy, who is running for re-election next year, faces criticism from political opponents for his handling of the pandemic and his recent efforts to fight vaccination mandates. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Les Gara told Anchorage Daily News Dunleavy “should work overtime to find ways to convince people that vaccines are safe, save lives and are one of the only ways out of this pandemic “.
While the vaccine mandates have faced nationwide opposition, that opposition is weak – usually just a handful of workers and communities – and the mandates have proven to be remarkably effective, time and time again. As late as Tuesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 92 percent of the city’s 378,000 employees have been vaccinated, with thousands of photos nearing the deadline. Although there were fears that more than 22,000 municipal workers could meet the requirement, causing massive disruption to municipal services, only 9,000, or less than 6% of workers, were put on unpaid leave this week. Mayor de Blasio said no disruption was expected.