In separate videos on Wednesday, Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce addressed their constituents about COVID-19.
In a video shared by the City of Kenai Wednesday morning, Gabriel voiced his concern about surging COVID-19 case numbers on the Kenai Peninsula and encouraged residents to remain “diligent” in helping mitigate the spread of the virus. Specifically, Gabriel voiced his concern regarding Central Peninsula Hospital, which reached capacity on Monday.
“I’m asking each and every one of you to take personal responsibility for protecting the health of each other, our community and our economy,” Gabriel said. “We need to put aside the divisiveness surrounding COVID-19 and focus on what matters: our ability to work together as a community to do what is right and to ensure that we have the resources to take care of those in need.”
Also on Wednesday, a YouTube video shared by the Kenai Peninsula Borough showed Pierce encouraging residents to take necessary precautions and reiterating his opposition to the implementation of COVID mandates, including mask mandates.
“We’ve all heard the safeguards many times, I think we’ve been inundated with it, you know, ‘do these three things,’ right? You know what they are,” Pierce said. “Some of us believe they work when they’re followed and some of us really prefer to not be bothered with the whole ordeal. I understand. You have the far left and you have the far right and you have those folks that are in the middle. We all have an opinion about it.”
Pierce said the two most important things to him are protecting essential individuals, which he said includes everyone on the Kenai Peninsula, and keeping businesses open. Pierce said in order to achieve those two things, people need to “demonstrate a willingness” to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including frequent hand-washing, social distancing and wearing masks when needed.
“I want to encourage you to wear a mask when you need to wear a mask — you know when you need to wear one,” Pierce said. “Put one in your pocket, carry it with you and wear it when you need it.”
Pierce echoed Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s concern about how health care workers are being impacted by the virus.
“Look at our emergency responders, look at our nurses, look at our doctors,” Pierce said. “Listen, there’s only so many of them and if … they’re home quarantining they can’t serve you, so we need them back at work.”
Equally important, Pierce said, is lowering case numbers so that in-person classes could resume at peninsula schools. Currently, 34 schools in the Kenai Peninsula School District are operating 100% remotely until at least Nov. 25.
On Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 551 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska, including 67 on the peninsula.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.