Murkowski’s Plea for Americans to Show Kindness and Appreciation to Healthcare Workers

Alaska Leading Nation in COVID Rates, Hospital Systems Overwhelmed

As Alaska leads the nation in positive COVID-19 cases, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke on the Senate floor to discuss Alaska’s record breaking COVID cases. In her remarks, she encouraged Americans to show kindness, respect, and appreciation to our nation’s healthcare workers on the frontlines of this pandemic.

Senator Murkowski COVID situation in Alaska

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Senator Murkowski’s full remarks:

“Mr. President, I have come to the floor this afternoon unexpectedly. I had anticipated that I was going to be taking the long trek home for even a short weekend, going back to Alaska. That is not the case this weekend, unfortunately.

“Our COVID numbers are at all-time highs, and most of the events and meetings that I would have had back home are canceled or they're on zoom. And so life is just a little bit different. You roll with it, and it means that I’m here in Washington, D.C., on this Friday afternoon.

“But I opened up the paper this morning—the Anchorage Daily News, our largest statewide newspaper—again to headlines that have just kind of unfolded over these past weeks with more grim and difficult news. The headline today is: Alaska infection rates remain high with over 1,200 new COVID cases.

“We are leading – we're leading the nation right now in our COVID rates.

“And it's interesting. In Alaska we are separated enough geographically, but through the advantages of air travel and road travel, we mix, we mingle, we get around, and the virus knows no bounds, as we all know. But as we're seeing, thankfully, the case counts beginning to decline here in the Lower 48, but Alaska is doing just the opposite.

“I’m quoting here from our paper. ‘The U. S. saw a 26 percent decrease in cases over the last two weeks while Alaska recorded an 84 percent increase. If Alaska were a country, it would be the nation with the world’s highest per capita case rates,’ according to data from the Center for Systems, Science, and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

“The article proceeds to state that: ‘Alaska's 171 average daily cases per 100,000 over the last seven days is nearly double the rate seen in West Virginia, which is currently second in the nation. Bermuda and Serbia at the top of the global list, have a case rate of 99.’ So we're at 171 average daily cases per 100,000.

“It has been challenging. We are a state that has limited capacity. We've got a smaller population, obviously, but that also means that we have fewer hospitals. We have less and more limited means in terms of our ability to care for those who have become very, very sick. And it is straining. It is really maxing out our hospitals to levels that we really just could not have even anticipated could happen.

“And as our hospitals are maxed out. It’s not just the capacity—the number of people that you can put into your ICU—it is those that are daily doing the work caring for those who are coming into our hospitals—coming in sicker and staying longer. We have maxed out our hospitals. And when I say maxing out, in the Alaska vernacular, basically that means there is no room at the hospital.

“Our largest hospitals are Providence, Alaska Regional, Mat-Su, Alaska Native Medical Center, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, and Bartlett. They're at capacity in their ICU’s. Let me share what that means. I was in a hospital just two weekends ago. I was told their ICU, a 16-bed ICU had been expanded to 20. 100 percent of the [ICU] beds when I was there on Saturday were occupied with COVID patients with no room for anyone else to come to that particular medical facility.

“I had been at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital actually there on an emergency—not myself but with another individual. We go to the emergency room and, as we were waiting for the doctors to come and address this non-COVID-related medical emergency, I was advised by the evening supervisor that Fairbanks Memorial Hospital was at capacity within their ICU, and what that meant was that because Fairbanks Memorial was at capacity and as of that evening all of the other hospitals in Alaska that could care in an ICU capacity were filled. And so I was told that my loved one may be in a situation if he needed to be in the ICU, that I needed to prepare myself and others that he may be sent to Seattle or Portland that night. For those of you that don't know your geography there, that is a three, three-and-a-half-hour flight by the jet. It would have been a medevac. It's thousands of miles away.

“That's what's happening in Alaska right now. When your hospitals are full, you just can't put them in an ambulance and take them to another town. We're taking these folks to another state. And, again, keep in mind, the reason that I was there that evening with this individual was not COVID-related. But that's the squeeze. That's the pressure that it puts on the rest of your system.

“Just this week the state is dealing with crisis standards of care guidelines as it relates to how individuals may receive monoclonal antibody treatments because the supplies are scarce out there. So it's tough right now. It's tough. Beds are hard to find, and the extraordinary men and women who every day are going in and doing as best they can to provide for the level of care that is needed are doing so.

“But they're tired. They can't get enough help. You have those who are exposed, who have to quarantine. It puts pressure on everybody else. People are running themselves into the ground. But we have good news that is happening. Our governor has been working to bring additional health workers in, and we're starting to see just this week as many as—we were hoping 500—but maybe a little bit less than that.

“Nurses and respiratory therapists are starting to come to the state as part of a federal contract. So you've got state-contracted healthcare workers, the Alaska Native Medical Center is going to be receiving additional support from a disaster medical assistance team. Again, we are at a point where you just can't take it on anymore and our numbers have not yet peaked.

“Mr. President, I don't share these statistics, I don't share the front page of the daily news just to bring people up to speed as to what is happening in Alaska. That wasn't necessarily my purpose here. My purpose this afternoon is, in the midst of this, in the midst of this real crisis in my state when it comes to the availability of healthcare and responding to this virus that is killing Alaskans, killing Americans, killing people around the world—that we show a little kindness, because right now that seems to be in as little capacity as some of the hospitals that we have in Alaska.

“Kindness and respect for where people are. Your healthcare workers are giving every ounce of what they have to be there, to leave their families. They're worried about everybody, but they are there for us. And they're doing the best job possible. And some of what we see in return is not the best of America. It's not the best that Alaskans have to offer.

“We have had some just horrible, horrible confrontations in our public meetings in Anchorage. The top of the fold in the Anchorage paper is about an assembly meeting where individuals wore yellow Stars of David to protest the mask ordinance that the Anchorage Assembly was taking up, comparing a mask mandate to the Holocaust. It's shocking.

“And at some of the assembly meetings, and it's not just in Anchorage—we're seeing it in other communities as well, it is neighbor against neighbor. We have had providers go to provide testimony before in these public meetings, and not only have they been ridiculed and mocked, but we hear the stories, we read the stories that they've been spit upon.

“This is not how we show appreciation for those who are trying their absolute best to be there for us. And they will literally turn the other cheek and make sure that the care that they are providing in that ICU, in that ER, is without discrimination as to whether or not you have been vaccinated or not. They are going to be there to take care of you.

“So, please, can we please show some kindness to one another at these times of stress and of anxiety to families?

“We in Alaska are pretty hardy. We're independent. We can handle things on our own. But we're better because we're also good neighbors to one another more often than not. When somebody's car breaks down by the side of the road and it’s cold and it's dark, we stop. We help them. We're there for them. When somebody's sick, we deliver the food. We're good neighbors. And so we in Alaska need to remember to be that good neighbor to one another. We can have disagreements, we can have differing points of view, we can express them without degrading one another, without denigrating one another, without humiliating and mocking one another.

“So, I know that we will be beyond COVID. It’s not coming soon enough for any of us, but I just ask that as we go through this in this state and around this country and around this world, that we remember that we are all better when we care for one another and we show a little kindness.”

Related Issues: COVID-19 Resource Page