“Our goal has always been to avoid having systems overwhelmed,” Dr. Zink said. “And right now we have systems overwhelmed.”
Governor Dunleavy has avoided ordering a statewide mask mandate or other restrictions during the latest surge, saying such requirements should be decided locally in a vast state where some communities have had few or no cases. A draft statewide mask mandate had been drawn up early in the pandemic, Dr. Zink said, but it was never put into place.
With each Covid-19 patient, Dr. Zink said, she wonders if there was more she could have done, something she could have said, to convince more people to get vaccinated or take precautions.
She became a household name at the start of the pandemic, when she gave video briefings to the public from a heated yurt behind her family’s home. In many corners of the state, she has been widely praised. On a recent day, while talking with a reporter at an Anchorage park, a couple walking their dog recognized Dr. Zink and waved. “We are fans,” the man called out.
But Dr. Zink is spending time trying to reach people who are not fans. She has been appearing on conservative talk radio, answering questions and trying to ease fears about the vaccines.
While some people have made up their minds, Dr. Zink said, she still regularly finds others making the decision to get vaccinated. A state survey, she said, found that 60 percent of unvaccinated people are open to it. In trying to encourage people to consider vaccines, she often uses references to moose hunting and berry foraging and all the ways that Alaskans are used to taking care of themselves.
“Just like when we go out in a storm, we layer up,” she said.
“We do multiple things together: We change our snow tires and we wear a jacket and we wear a hat,” she said. “So make sure you’re vaccinated and wear a mask and keep your distance. We know how to do this.”