“An orange, orange view for an orange president… although he looked a little bit pale when he came out of the hospital the other day.”
That’s the start of a livestream video captured by none other than Must Read Alaska blogger Suzanne Downing outside a Republican fundraiser hosted in the hills overlooking Anchorage on Tuesday night.
“Let’s go inside and see who’s here,” says Downing, commenting on a pumpkin and that she won’t be able to keep the camera on long. “Oh, look! The governor’s here.”
And there’s Gov. Mike Dunleavy, his neck gaiter down around his neck, posing for a picture with an unmasked person as several others in the frame chat without masks. The person jumps away, donning their mask, and Dunleavy, still maskless, points and waves off Downing.
“Turn it off!” he can be heard yelling. Downing obliges.
It’s a moment that would have gone unseen if not for Alaska Landmine blogger Jeff Landfield rushing to save a copy before it was deleted. “This. Is. Loose!” tweeted Landfield.
This. Is. Loose! Suzanne Downing at a Republican fundraiser on the Hillside tonight. As she walks in @GovDunleavy, who’s taking a picture with someone, gives her a full wave off and tells her to turn the camera off. The lady in the picture immediately masks up! #loose #akleg pic.twitter.com/eQS9odtl6m
— The Alaska Landmine (@alaskalandmine) October 7, 2020
The moment comes as Alaska is amid yet another climb in cases and for many captures in clear detail the frustrating hypocrisy of the Dunleavy administration, which just hours earlier urged Alaskans to wear masks and stick within your known bubble.
“All Alaskans are equal, but some Alaskans are more equal than others,” one person tweeted with pictures of Dunleavy at the event.
It’s nothing new for Republicans, who’ve continued to flout the very public health guidance that their administration has recommended. On Friday, several state elected officials joined Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Alaska Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, the state official charged with protecting state offices from the pandemic, at maskless indoor fundraiser in Kenai that included singing.
On Monday, the state announced the highest single day of new cases with the positivity rate in several areas spiking into dangerous territory. In Anchorage, 1 in 20 tests are coming back positive. In Fairbanks it’s 1 in 10. In some areas of rural Alaska, it’s 1 in 5. On Tuesday, the state announced there had been nearly 30 cases of covid-19 in the Fairbanks Pioneer Home.
And as if to underline the different standards applied to the public and Republican elected officials, just hours before the video was posted the governor released a video where he urged Alaskans to continue to maintain those health guidelines while urging Alaskans not to live in fear because hospitalizations and deaths connected to the virus are on the decline.
“Now, nothing is gonna replace individuals taking action on their own to protect themselves, their loved ones and their neighbors. This includes wearing a mask when you’re in a setting with others and avoiding contact with others outside of your family if you don’t need to make that contact,” he said. “But I just want to make sure that we understand none of us should be terrified today. None of us should be scared today. We should be concerned; we make sure that we take all the precautions necessary to prevent ourselves from getting the virus.”
Dunleavy and his Republican allies’ message is clear: Do as I say, not as I do. But according to the latest report by the Anchorage Daily News, it appears that a growing number of Alaskans are taking their cues from his actions and not his words as the number of overall tests is on the decline in the state.
“There are also growing numbers of COVID-19 critics who simply don’t want to get tested and are discouraging others from doing so, top health officials say. Maybe they’re suffering from “COVID fatigue” after months under pandemic restrictions. Or maybe they believe fewer positives will lead to reopened schools and businesses. President Donald Trump, who was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, has discouraged broad testing several times during the pandemic.
Health officials say that strategy can backfire.”
Dunleavy also claimed that Alaska has successfully bought itself time to increase its health care capacity and flatten the curve of cases, but health experts worry Alaska’s hospitals could be maxed out by the end of the month if there isn’t a change in course.
“We not been that close to using up the health care utilization, or ICU beds, at any point in the epidemic,” Dr. Tom Hennessy, an infections disease epidemiologist at UAA, told KTUU on Tuesday. “So we’re closer to that wall now than we ever have been. And that’s worrisome. So this is all going the wrong direction I guess is the bottom line of this. Increased cases, increased transmission and less of cushion within our health care system that we could use to absorb increase in transmission and COVID cases.”