Ketchikan is on an island, but it isn’t isolated — not when it comes to the novel coronavirus.
The First City is slowly coming out of the pandemic with the Ketchikan Little League kicking off its season this weekend, the Ketchikan Court System resuming trials after more than a year hiatus, public meetings occurring in chambers again, and the number of Alaskans vaccinated against COVID-19 increasing daily.
That’s only a sample of the forward movement. Of course, it shows in other ways, too.
And, it gives Alaskans the sense that life is returning to pre-COVID times. It gradually is.
This is good for Alaska. But, Alaska needs its business partners in other states and around the globe to be in the same situation, rising above the virus and its effects.
Specifically to Ketchikan, the community would like to restart its tourism industry. Until the virus, cruise ships were expected to carry about 1.2 million passengers into the First City in 2020. The numbers were projected to rise in subsequent seasons.
The ships, which are foreign-flagged, aren’t allowed to sail directly between two American ports. They must make a stop at a foreign port. To meet that requirement in federal law, they touch a British Columbia port at some point during their Alaska cruises.
As it is well known, as a result of the virus, Canada announced its ports would be closed at least until February 2022.
Alaska’s congressional delegation is trying mightily to suspend the law that requires a Canadian docking for the ships, enabling the ships to sail directly between Washington state and Alaska.
That would be a temporary fix as long as Washington’s COVID response is successful. Its vaccination percentage is lower than Alaska’s.
Plus, in Canada, where the ships would one day return, only 2.4% of the Canadian population has been fully vaccinated; 25% acquired its first of the two-shot vaccines. As a result, the Canadians continue to deal with a high rate of COVID-19 infection.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy made a kind and strategic move for Alaska late last month when he delivered vaccines not only to Hyder, here at home, but to residents of Stewart, British Columbia. Plus, he is making vaccinations available to all spring and summer visitors to Alaska, acknowledging that it isn’t enough to protect Alaskans, but travelers to the state, too.
While some travelers come from the states and Canada, many others arrive from elsewhere. And all of their countries aren’t applauding their nation’s virus response. One example is India, which in recent weeks, set new daily records exceeding 350,000 COVID cases. India is well populated, but it isn’t alone. Other countries, like Canada and Mexico, still struggle to get the upper hand on the coronavirus.
The Biden administration appears to be cognizant of the import in all countries overcoming the pandemic. It says it intends to share 60 million vaccine doses with other countries in coming months.
It likely will help, and it won’t hurt. Depending on which poll is consulted between 20% and 25% of Americans intend to decline the vaccine. Once all here who want a vaccination get it, it’s in Ketchikan’s, Alaska’s, the nation’s and the world’s best interest, to get the vaccine dispersed widely in order to return to pre-COVID well-being.
Ketchikan isn’t as isolated as it might seem.