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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Open Letter to Dr. Ann Zinc, Alaska Chief Medical Officer

By Ceri Malein


January 01, 2022
Saturday PM

Dear Dr. Ann Zinc,

I am writing about possible Covid super spreading stemming from the upcoming Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) meetings in Ketchikan on January 4th. Normally as many as 500 people from diverse Alaska areas and Pacific Northwest states would attend the Southeast Alaska Finfish BOF.  The meeting will be indoors, last 12 days for 8 hours a day. Dr. Zink, on Dec 14 you updated the City of Sitka Assembly on Covid and gave guidance for attending this upcoming BOF. 

The Alaska BOF is established under AS 16.05.221 for the purposes of the conservation and development of the fisheries resources of the State. Members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the legislature. It is a public process by nature. Attendance is vital if conservation and good fisheries management is the goal. This is not a conference that can be adequately attended via Zoom.

At the Sitka Assembly meeting you explained that it is event organizers who must take responsibility for Covid safe venues. The organizer of all Alaska BOF meetings is the State of Alaska. 

You advised that BOF attendees need to wear masks, social distance, and be vaccinated. BOF Members stated (Oct 20 Zoomed work session) that while seated at the table for eight hours they do not plan to wear masks. This Ketchikan BOF meeting will be held in a room too small for the expected attendees to social distance. The venue’s ventilation system is inadequate. Ketchikan itself is in Covid red alert and has over-flowing hospitals. The City has no mask mandate.

Although there is a drafted Covid mitigation plan the BOF is not requiring masking neither is vaccinations or testing a requirement to attend this meeting. The plan does require participants to sign a waver agreeing to not sue if they get sick. T he US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration declared the meeting a high-risk environment (2021/2022 Boards of Game and Fisheries Meetings: Mitigation Scenarios re: COVID-19 Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Boards Support Section ).

The Covid mitigation plan for the Ketchikan meeting was written prior to the onset of the Omicron variant. It is now being reported that Omicron symptoms occur 3-5 days after contact. How will it be possible to keep the spread of Covid under control during this meeting?  Alaska law (5AAC 96.625 (c)) designs BOF meetings as an engagement of the Public in the Fisheries Management process but the real threat of Covid disenfranchises the Public who are rightfully afraid to attend. Unless this meeting is held without the Public how is the State confident that the Ketchikan Alaska meeting will not be a super-spreader event? If it is held without real Public participation than what is the point of the meeting?

What is your advice to the Governor’s appointed and Legislature approved BOF members?  Is it wise for the State to proceed with this meeting or would it be more responsible to delay? It was delayed with far less Covid cases last January than now. That delay cause no serious consequences.

Thanks to the State I have a Hobson’s choice to either protect my livelihood or protect my health.

Attached below is a letter I wrote on Covid to the BOF.

Ceri Malein
A struggling Fisherman
Sitka, Alaska


Attached Letter:

To the Alaska Board of Fish:
22 Dec 2021

Dear Members,

Comments on Covid 19

The CDC states that even with three vaccines one should avoid large indoor gatherings, venues where mask wearing is inconsistent, or ventilation is poor. The WHO recommends that individuals over 60 should postpone traveling to areas with high community transmission. The CDC is recommending against traveling at all.
The average age of Alaskan fishermen is over 50. Ketchikan is in High Alert for Covid.

The Ketchikan hospital is overflowing and turning away patients.

Many knowledgeable seniors with histories of participating at BOF are choosing not to attend the January meeting because of Covid. Their large collective bank of information will not be available. The BOF is based on Public process, without these old timer’s expertise there is greater potential for flawed outcomes.

The entire world is locking down due to the new highly transmittable Omicron Variant. Omicron has the highest breakthrough rate of any Covid variant so far. This means that even if one has had 3 vaccines one can still get Covid. My husband is 72 with comorbidities. We, and many others, are extremely concerned about threats to my, my husbands, and the public’s health by this coming meeting. Still I feel we have to attend because of the importance of the Public Processed BOF to our fishing industry. I don’t like the position that not postponing this meeting puts my family in.

Is the State of Alaska irresponsibly hosting a super spreader event and forcing Alaskans to choose between protecting their health or protecting their livelihood?

Ceri Malein




Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.

Received December 27, 2021 - Published January 01, 2022

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