Claire Richardson is retired and resides in Juneau. (Courtesy Photo)

Alaska Voices: Whatever happened to governing our ship of state?

Like it or not, we are all in this together.

  • Tuesday, September 21, 2021 11:07pm
  • Opinion

By Claire Richardson

I was looking forward to visiting friends in their home and watch a new season of one of our favorite TV series last Friday. We are all vaccinated but I hadn’t been feeling well the last couple of days, so, out of an abundance of caution, I drove to the Juneau Airport to get a COVID rapid test to make sure I wasn’t putting two senior citizens at risk.

Sorry, they informed me, there is a nationwide shortage of rapid tests, you’ll have to take the test we send to the lab so you won’t know for two to three days. Disappointed, I crossed the visit off my calendar and stood in line to take the nasal swab. I was pleased to see local young adults hired to work the free CBJ testing station. I asked one of them if she felt nervous being exposed to so many people who may be positive. She cheerily said that with N95 double masking and the plexiglass screen she felt pretty safe. Then I asked if she was vaccinated. “Um, not yet,” was her embarrassed reply.

NOT YET! I texted her and urged her to consider getting the vaccine and maybe winning money to go to college. The Alaska Chamber is using federal COVID relief dollars to pay out the prize winnings. At least the business leaders of our state get it — the federal government has underwritten the survival of Alaska with billions of dollars doled out to companies, individuals and state government in the past year, but unless our citizens get vaccinated, we are destined for more permanent business closures and a weakened supply chain that will hobble future economic growth as variants continue to mutate and sicken an unvaccinated population.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Meyer are AWOL while governing our ship of state through this crisis. We just hit more than 1,000 positive cases a day. Hospitals are swamped. Restaurants and other retail businesses are struggling. Classrooms are being quarantined putting stress on parents, teachers, support staff and kids. Where is Dunleavy’s blue ribbon panel of medical providers who were supposed to be offering him advice? They must be fiddling below deck.

While the governor’s lack of response and leadership is disgraceful, kudos to our local Assembly and government response. I can get timely information from social media and this weblink CBJ COVID-19 Information – City and Borough of Juneau (, even though the news is very depressing.

Last Friday’s report noted:

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reports 60 new people in the Juneau community – 58 residents and two nonresidents – identified with COVID-19 for Sept. 16. There are currently eight people with COVID-19 hospitalized at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

The Juneau School District reports 12 individuals who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and were infectious while in school, resulting in two classrooms at Mendenhall River Community School and one classroom at Gastineau Elementary being quarantined.

The City of Juneau has mandated masks for indoor venues regardless of vaccination status. I feel safe in Costco because they do mandate masks, not so much at other large stores. One manager said they cannot force people to comply. So how do we enforce this rule? I applaud Bartlett Hospital for mandating vaccines for all staff, but not so thrilled with the December deadline.

I thank leaders such as Mayor Beth Weldon, our assembly and the CBJ team for filling the void left by Dunleavy.

But it takes more than local governments to tackle this pandemic. It takes state and national leaders willing to govern not by political hot winds that blow this way and that, but by steady, thoughtful actions that truly serve all our people and ensure our community and personal health and economic survival.

Like it or not, we are all in this together. And I for one, would rather be on the USS Alaska moving forward than onboard the Dunleavy/Meyer AK Titanic hitting an economic iceberg in Alaska.

• Claire Richardson is retired and lives in Juneau.Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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