Cooper looks for 'measured approach' to reopening state

Apr 21, 2020

On Friday Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce released an open letter to the public that he sent to Governor Mike Dunleavy requesting he return Alaskans to work as soon as possible.
    Pierce called for COVID-19 testing for all Alaskans immediately, saying it was overdue, adding that waiting for the virus to pass would be devastating. He suggested residents who are sick or in a high risk group should stay home, while those who can work safely, do so.
    Borough Assembly President Kelly Cooper of Homer saw the letter and agreed that more testing must be done. And while her own business is struggling due to the shutdown, Cooper is not as anxious as Pierce to swing the doors wide open.
    “I have a small business. I'm one of them that's hemorrhaging. It has to do with hospitality and tourism. And I understand the stress and the worry, but we have to do it in a measured approach,” Cooper said. “And I'm not suggesting that the state is not doing that. I think that they have a good group working on the plan and rolling it out a step at a time. If we go too fast, too much, we will have a huge spike in our positive cases.”
    And, just like across the country, Cooper says there are two ways people are reacting to the public health emergency here.
    “There are those that are really satisfied with our low numbers. They think we're doing a great job. They understand that those low numbers means that we've done a good job in containing that and we need to continue to be vigilant until those numbers start to reduce at the state level, as we all are following daily,” she said. “And then there are those that think that we should open business back up. And those that are of the immune compromised or the elderly should stay home and let the younger, healthier ones get back to work and be careful and be responsible and get our economy moving again.”
    She is buoyed that the divisions in the community over staying closed or taking the chance of opening have not stopped residents from acting neighborly.
     “I'm hopeful that we, as we move forward in rolling the economy back into place, a step at a time and as we continue to see those numbers stay down, that we can come back together as a community. Cause you know, in the community, people have done a great job and I don't care what area or what your belief system is, everyone is jumping in and helping their neighbors,” Cooper said. “It's just the noise on social media and the politics that are making folks get a little more divided, and it disturbs me.”
    One thing Cooper said she discovered this weekend was that some businesses owners closed without checking the closure mandate list to see if theirs was a type of business that was exempt from closures. She said the Homer Chamber of Commerce has the best information for curious business owners.