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Governor directs state employees to telework to ‘maximum extent practical’ as Alaska sees record COVID-19 cases

Alaska state employees will again be teleworking as the state sees record numbers of new...
Alaska state employees will again be teleworking as the state sees record numbers of new COVID-19 cases.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 2:21 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy has directed state employees to begin working remotely, again, for roughly the next month as Alaska contends with a continuing surge of COVID-19.

Dunleavy sent a memorandum to the heads of departments on Wednesday, directing them to have state employees work remotely “to the maximum extent practical,” starting on Monday.

Dunleavy says that “posture” will be in place through Oct. 29 and could be extended if needed.

The announcement came as Alaska saw a second straight day of record COVID-19 cases and near-record hospitalizations. Alaska has the highest rate of new coronavirus cases in the country.

Jake Metcalfe, the head of Alaska’s largest union for state workers, welcomed Dunleavy’s directive.

“I’m glad the governor listened to the concerns of state employees,” he said. “Our members have been advocating for this for several weeks.”

Jeff Turner, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, said a one-size-fits-all approach would not be beneficial for all state offices and Alaska’s roughly 22,000 state workers. Commissioners are now completing assessments on how best to follow the governor’s directive.

Turner said Dunleavy “has been working on this scenario for weeks with his public health team and the Office of Personnel.” State employees “are also free to wear face masks if they so choose,” he added.

Thousands of state employees worked remotely for months last year. Many started transitioning back to offices in spring as COVID-19 case rates dropped.

A hybrid telework policy was launched in May as the governor rescinded a face mask mandate for state offices. Vaccinations have been encouraged for state employees, but not required.

Alaska’s coronavirus cases started to rise again in July before reaching record highs last week.

“As the numbers went up, the anxiety has gone up,” Metcalfe said.

He forwarded emails to Alaska’s News Source that were sent from the union to the Alaska Department of Administration last week, urging a return to telework and the reintroduction of a face mask mandate for state offices.

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