In Alaska’s Covid Crisis, Doctors Must Decide Who Lives and Who Dies

“Our goal has always been to prevent systems from being overwhelmed,” said Dr Zink. “And right now we have overwhelmed systems.”

Gov. Dunleavy avoided ordering a statewide mask warrant or other restrictions in the latest wave, saying those demands should be decided locally in a large state where some communities have had little or no no case. A statewide mask mandate project had been developed at the start of the pandemic, Dr Zink said, but it was never implemented.

With every Covid-19 patient, Dr Zink said, she wonders if she could have done more, something she could have said, to convince more people to get vaccinated or take precautions.

She became a household name early in the pandemic, when she gave video briefings to the public from a heated yurt behind her family’s home. In many parts of the state, she has received wide acclaim. One recent day, while talking with a reporter in an Anchorage park, a couple walking their dog recognized Dr Zink and waved to him. “We’re fans,” the man shouted.

But Dr. Zink spends time trying to reach people who aren’t fans. She appeared on conservative talk radio, answering questions and trying to allay fears about vaccines.

Although some people have made up their minds, Dr Zink said, she still regularly finds others making the decision to get the vaccine. A state investigation, she said, found that 60% of unvaccinated people are open to it. When trying to encourage people to consider vaccines, she often uses references to moose hunting and berry hunting and all the ways Alaskans are used to taking care of themselves.

“Just like when we go out in a storm, we overlap,” she said.

“We do several things together: we change our snow tires and we wear a jacket and we wear a hat,” she said. “So make sure you get vaccinated, wear a mask and keep your distance. We know how to do this.


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