Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - After months-long debate on House Bill 76, the bill that extends the COVID-19 disaster declaration after it was left to expire earlier this year, was signed by Governor Mike Dunleavy on Friday. Shortly after, the governor issued a proclamation that officially ends the disaster declaration.
A provision in the law extended the declaration until the end of this year or at the governor's discretion.
Instead, the state is now under a "public health emergency." Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) commissioner, Adam Crum, said HB 76 gives the commissioner the power to issue a public health emergency, which he did in the window of time before the disaster declaration ended.
"It's very prescribed, very narrow," said the commissioner in a media briefing on Friday afternoon. He assured that this move allows the state "to make sure we can continue the responses we have" to the COVID-19 pandemic. The disaster declaration that was in place before had more powers than are needed to respond to the pandemic now that the infrastructure is in place, according to Crum.
Public health officials maintained that if the COVID-19 situation took a turn for the worse, such as uncontrolled variant spread, a disaster declaration may be issued again.