Alaska’s Covid Pandemic Battle

Ship of Fools Fights Covid-19 at Anchorage

This story has been updated since its original posting February, 2021 but reflects this writer’s understanding of the situation at the time..

This iconic Grateful Dead album cover portrays a heartless and soulless frigate group entering a landmine field.
We now know more about what happened.

Some might think our recent Covid-19 Pandemic was mitigated by destroying the private sector economy of Anchorage. Looking over the events of the last year, and comparing outcomes by community, we now know lockdowns made no difference. However, the Anchorage lockdown will surely make it more difficult to return to normalcy in Alaska’s largest city.

Ultimately Alaskans would learn that Masks were of no consequence but only caused government to impose ever more rules and mandates in the name of SAFETY.

[1]Senator Reinbold Sues Seattle Airlines

A capable captain of any ship strives to reach the chosen destination with as few turns as necessary–a degree or two course change at a time–given requirements of wind and current. When the weather kicks up or other vessels come in proximity of a ship underway the prudent helmsman adjusts as necessary. If calamity should occur the full capability of the ship is assured by protecting means of propulsion and steerage. This is also the rational approach to running any large commercial or government organization; STEADY AS SHE GOES! 

As the one year marker approaches since China released what we call Covid-19 on the world, this might be a good time to examine how Alaska governmental bodies steered their various vessels through the storm; the ship of the line State of Alaska, the frigates Matsu Borough, City of Wasilla, City of Palmer and Municipality of Anchorage, all faced the same storm in southcentral Alaska, and all were steered by captains and crew elected by the passengers to provide safe and secure passage.

We can see on e year in from the data what approach to addressing the calamity has made any difference.

The ship of the line State of Alaska

USS Pennsylvania (centre foreground) and North Carolina (centre background), ships of the line of the U.S. Navy from the early and mid-19th century. In this 1897 chromolithograph after a watercolour by maritime illustrator Frederick S. Cozzens, the two ships of the line are shown as if accompanied by two navy brigs from earlier in the 19th century (left background and right foreground).

Once the backbone of the world’s great navies from the mid-17th century through the mid-19th century, this warship had a high superstructure on its stern and usually carried heavy guns along two decks, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. These were the heavy fighting ships that formed a line with each about 100 yards apart stretching as long as 12 miles in a formation for battle. This strategy broke from the previous tactics of individual ships engaging enemy vessels one on one. 

[2] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2014, July 20). Ship of the line. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Our Coronavirus war began when a flight returning Americans from Wuhan China landed in Anchorage on January 28, 2020. The State of Alaska was on the line as the last airplane allowed to land in the US from China touched down to refuel at Ted Stevens International Airport with Americans coming home.

[3] Anchorage Daily News, Flight With US Evacuees…, January 29, 2020

The plane, a government-chartered cargo jetliner, held American pas sengers who were evacuating from the area where the coronavirus outbreak began. Passengers on the plane were screened twice before leaving China, according to Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, MD, FACEP, and they were continuously monitored by medics during the Tuesday flight.

Today, February 17. 2021, these are the official State

Covid-19 recommendations for Alaskans:

Leadership by the Alaska Legislature

The outbreak caused the Alaska Legislature to jump ship into abrupt adjournment. It was up to Captain Michael Dunleavy to determine how the ship of state should be run. He depended upon National CDC recommendations and advice by Alaska health officials. On March 11, 2020 Gov. Dunleavy declared a Statewide Health Emergency. His first COVID-19 HEALTH MANDATE was issued March 13, 2020, to expire November 15, 2020. This initial mandate suspended visitations at prisons, juvenile justice facilities, Alaska Military Youth Academy and Alaska Psychiatric Institute with limited visitations at Alaska Pioneer Homes. A total of 18 HEALTH MANDIDATES would be ordered by Gov. Dunleavy over the coming three months under this order.

The governor had the authority and responsibility to do

this. Some have objected to the mandates.

In his 3rd State of the State Address Gov. Dunleavy reflected on how Alaskans joined the fight:

I remember a meeting last spring with a few members of my amazing health team. We were on a video call with Hans Vogel who owns a manufacturing company in Palmer. We dumped a bunch of PPE and testing supplies on a table, and asked if there was anything here he could make. As we all know, Hans and Triverus ended up making over 100,000 swabs for testing when we needed them the most.

Distilleries stepped up and began producing hand sanitizer. Everyday Alaskans organized charity campaigns and food drives out of the goodness of their hearts. Heroes like John Sturgeon used their business connections overseas to secure an entire aircraft full of PPE when every other state was struggling to source supplies.

The University of Alaska graduated 260 nurses to the pandemic frontlines as well as 400 contact tracers. With the help of the Legislature, many of these nurses were graduated early thanks to nearly 300 regulatory suspensions that took place under the emergency declaration.

Government Regulatory Suspensions for new nurses;

wasn’t that easy?

We created the first traveler testing program in the nation, catching nearly 2,400 cases of COVID at our airports. We held a safe summer fishing season that many told us wouldn’t be possible.

[4] COVID-29 HEALTH MANDATE, March 13, 2020

On November 16, 2020 Gov. Dunleavy had renewed the declaration of a Public Health Disaster from the Covid-19 outbreak based on over 17,000 confirmed cases of the disease and 84 deaths. By January 12, Alaska had over 47,000 confirmed cases and 222 deaths with a new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 spreading in the United States, identified as being more contagious than the original strain. But the light shown at the end of the tunnel.

Quick math: 222/47,000 = 0.0047234042553191% Death Rate

[5]Health Orders issued so far.

[6] Dunleavy Emergency Health Orders, 11/15/20

The curve had been flattened, Alaska’s ship of the line was still fighting, and the battle still raged. Consolidation of previous health orders were set January 15, 2021.

The site shown below was accessible when I originally wrote this story but requires sign-in credentials now:

Never let a good Crisis go to waste

[7]Origin of the phrase: Never let a good crisis go to waste.

On January 25, 2021 Gov. Dunleavy introduced legislation (SB 56) relating to the extension of the public health disaster order previously issued on January 15, 2021, giving the Alaska Legislature the opportunity to fish or cut bait. The legislature is now underway and federal disaster funds are now at stake.

[8]Emergency Health Order 1 links

State Covid-19 disaster status ended February 14.

Posted statewide covid-19 status in mid-February:

Frigates in the Battle Group

Early sailing frigates were smaller and faster than ship of the line vessels but still capable of considerable firepower. Armament on frigates was aligned on a single gun deck with additional guns at other strategic locations. And, while these ships could not stand up to ships of the line in fleet engagements, they served as scouts or as escorts in the battle group, or in protecting merchant convoys from privateers and enemy raiders.

[9]Governor Dunleavy Introduces Bill to Extend Public Health Disaster, January 25, 2021

Every municipal government in Alaska represents a frigate in this past year of battle against Covid-19.

Frigate Matsu Borough

Orderly operation of the vessel was the order by Captain Vern Halter. While the Borough code provides for 1.25.020 EMERGENCY ORDINANCES none was required. The primary mission of the borough was to inform residents of the situation and distribute federal CARES ACT funds to support the economic engine of small business:

The Matsu Borough distributed some $10.5 Million to 652 approved applicants.

This local government imposed no additional mandates beyond what the state had set. 

Frigate City of Wasilla

At the onset, on March 27, 2020 Captain Bert Cottle issued an Emergency Order providing precautionary measures in anticipation of a Covid outbreak. This was in response to Emergency order of Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The Wasilla City Council extended that order by Resolution Serial No. 20-13 which stated in part: …the Emergency Proclamation Declaration of Public Health Disaster shall continue until the conditions related to COVID-19 and this Public Health Disaster are resolved and the City has issued a proclamation terminating the Emergency Proclamation Declaration or until a subsequent Proclamation or Resolution related to this Disaster is issued.

The primary concern was for welfare of the passengers and operation of the engine powering the fastest growing region of the state. State orders were enough, although Borough facilities were closed. An election brought a new Captain, former deputy mayor Glenda D. Ledford, to the command helm. At the January 25, 2021 Regular Meeting Captain Ledford reported to the city council that she had not instituted any new regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the February 10, Wasilla City Council meeting Relief and Recovery Grants Program Phase V funding was approved.

The goal was protecting and serving the good people who pay taxes and contribute to the well-being of the community.

Frigate City of Palmer

Again, this historic community followed the leadership of the ship of the line State of Alaska, and when a mask mandate was proposed, it took three Special Meetings and the testimony of many locals to finally revert to the State standard.

State Mandates were considered adequate. By the time the resolution was reduced from a requirement to a  recommendation the wind was out of the sails.

Frigate Ship of Fools at Anchorage

Quick to recognize a good crisis must never go to waste, Captain Ethan Berkowitz brought his frigate at Anchorage to face the challenge by immediately issuing mandates shutting down businesses and alienating Anchorage residents from those elites acting from the poop deck. No government employee missed a paycheck.

With a stroke of his pen Captain Berkowitz ordered everybody to their cabins. His majesty would go on to issue detailed mandates and prohibitions for every activity of crew and passengers.

Emergency Order 9 on May 11, 2020 (Phase Two) was heartily endorsed by Hizzoner’s majority on the Municipal Assembly provided a total lockdown.[9]

The largest city in the state was fighting the battle at anchorage. We all then witnessed Mayor Berkowitz’ abrupt resignation effective October 23, 2020 in disgrace, for a “consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship” with a local television anchor.

[10] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2017, January 26). FrigateEncyclopedia Britannica.

The soap opera continued with an unelected Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson picking up the effort with EO-15 on November 25, 2020. It contained 5-1/2 pages of renewed “Hunker Down” emergency mandate clarifications. This was getting easier because so many businesses had already been shut down to never return, although some were still trying to stay viable. On January 18, 2021 Acting Mayor Quinn-Davidson issued EO-18 “Easing Up.”

Eagle River/Chugiak was far enough away to miss direct fire from the Municipality of Anchorage as she floundered, while our two representatives on the 11-member Assembly attempted to bring reason to deliberations. 

 Let’s look at the numbers now that the battle is being won.

Anchorage population: 291,538
State population: 737,438 = 39.6% of the state lives in Anchorage.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough population: 103,464 = 14% of the state population.

State Covid-19 cases as shown above: 54,282.
Anchorage Cases: 25,582 = 47% of state cases in Anchorage.

Matsu cases: 7946 = 14% of state cases in Matsu Borough.

With 39.6% of the population Anchorage had 47% of cases. With 14% of the state population, Matsu Borough had 14% of cases.

Finally, state deaths from covid-19 have been 280 souls. Anchorage deaths are 152, which equals 54% of the state total. With 31 recorded deaths Matsu Borough had 11% of the deaths. A review of the webpage will reveal a very complicated array of means to expand government with CARES Relief funds. Matsu Borough relief funds went primarily to local business and individuals. 

Recovery of the frigate Municipality of Anchorage is going to be difficult and the spectacle has been regrettable as local residents were shut out of Assembly meetings and cut off for having views differing from local elected officials.

From the song by Grateful Dead:

Ship of fools on a cruel sea 

Ship of fools sail away from me

It was later than I thought when I first believed you

Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools


[1]Senator Reinbold Sues Seattle Airlines

[2] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2014, July 20). Ship of the line. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[3] Anchorage Daily News, Flight With US Evacuees…, January 29, 2020

[4] COVID-29 HEALTH MANDATE, March 13, 2020

[5] Dunleavy looks Back on One Year of COVID-19 with 3rd State of the State address, January 28,2021

[6] Dunleavy Emergency Health Orders, 11/15/20

[7]Origin of the Statement Never let a good crisis go to waste.
The “Political” use of the phrase “Never let a good crisis go to waste” is based upon the points made in Saul Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals, page 89, in the section marked communication: “in the arena of action, a threat or a crisis becomes almost a precondition to communication.” Therefore, any crisis can be used to force the need for control. If the crisis is allowed to continue long enough people will cry out to government, for relief from the result of the crisis.

[8]Emergency Health Order 1 links

Appendix to Order 1

[9] Governor Dunleavy Introduces Bill to Extend Public Health Disaster, January 25, 2021

[10] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2017, January 26). FrigateEncyclopedia Britannica.

[11] Municipality of Anchorage, Proclamation of Emergency Order 09, May 11, 2020

[10] Berkowitz Resigns as Mayor

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