Governor’s rhetoric obscures Alaska’s COVID-19 reality
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I assumed we were going to unite to fight this battle as a team. We can still do it, save lives and save people from the devastating long-term illness that can accompany COVID-19. We must do this to save struggling businesses and restore the jobs this pandemic is killing.
I say this as the husband of a dedicated hospital worker and for my wife’s colleagues, who are seeing more COVID-19 patients than ever before. We need to overcome this faster and together.
State and local leaders need to start reading what’s true, concede what’s true, say what’s true, and stop viewing this tragedy as a way to get votes by misleading people into disease. Our top leaders must speak the truth and stop playing with irresponsible rhetoric about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. This rhetoric hardens opposition to vaccines and safe practices. Every credible Alaska and national expert, regardless of party, says we must end this nightmare.
Let’s start with the facts of the doctors on the front lines, instead of the lies of Facebook.
As a well-respected Alaskan doctor recently put it in the Anchorage Daily News, âWe are out of beds. Rescue measures will not be possible in all casesâ¦ and this is what we are trying to stress. A respected doctor from Kenai recently said, “We are in crisis at the hospitalâ¦ It means when we have four patients and two machines, two people are not getting that care. It is happening now.
There is a way to end this crisis. We need to bring the truth to those who are skeptical about safe vaccinations and wearing masks in crowded places so that we can stop the endless infection of more people.
We need to work with local community leaders and experts, to calmly bring the truth to the people of those communities instead of arousing opposition to safe practices.
This week, the governor did the opposite, writing a comment blaming others for the growing number of illnesses and deaths in that state. He painted a pink picture of where Alaska is located. Here are facts he left out in praising the work he did.
He used old statistics and failed to mention that Alaska now has the worst COVID-19 infection rates in the country. He left out that he is now higher than in any country on the planet. People are dying at alarming rates, not the low rates he bragged about. According to the Daily News, “Alaska last Friday had the highest death rate in the country …”
We need to tell the truth in order to get more people to take it more seriously. And we need to calmly let people know how they can protect themselves and their neighbors.
The truth can be found on state health sites, where experts say “the best way to do it is to get vaccinated against COVID-19.” It is also very important at this time for Alaskans to wear a mask around others’ in tight spaces.
But that advice gets lost in the bulk of ugly rhetoric, like the use of bogus Nazi comparisons and holocausts. These comparisons spark anger and emotion in the people we want to reach, preventing them from making informed decisions about what really matters: their health and the health of others.
At a recent press conference, the governor emotionally exaggerated that “strongly urging” people to get vaccinated voluntarily would make us look like Nazi Germany “in 1939”. He insulted health workers, saying he did not want to “stick a needle” in people’s arms, which no health worker in Alaska does. This alarmist rhetoric came in response to a simple question of whether he would âurgeâ more strongly for a safe vaccination. His response should have been a simple, “Yes, I will. “
I agree to let local communities and school boards adopt the rules that correspond to their level of community danger. We don’t need statewide mandates if we have calm and responsible leadership.
We need a governor who does more than just send a periodic video from the comfort of his office, with mixed messages about whether to get the shot. It doesn’t help that the governor refused to be a role model.
He undermined his experts by attending crowded indoor political events without a mask and procuring himself COVID-19 after one of those events.
The governor should be clear that we cannot get out of this pandemic unless more people get vaccinated and hide in crowded places. He should have spent much of the past year roaming the state, safely, with trusted local experts and leaders to point out these things. He can still do it.
We are all tired of this pandemic. Politicians can play for the votes and extend it. I would act to end it.
The Gara is a candidate for governor, a former Alaska state legislator and deputy attorney general. He has lived in Alaska with his wife Kelly since 1988.
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