Interior secretary postpones Alaska trip, citing rising COVID rates

Deb Haaland at her confirmation hearing (U.S. Senate video)

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has postponed a trip to Alaska this month, citing the state’s COVID-19 rate.

“Out of an abundance of caution given rising COVID rates and in consultation with Alaska Native, local and federal leaders, the Interior Department today postponed the Secretary’s visit to Alaska until later this year,” the announcement on Wednesday said. “This visit is critically important to the Secretary and to the mission of the Department, and the kind of robust community engagement desired would not be possible given health and safety concerns throughout the regions.”

Haaland was due to visit in mid-September, particularly to meet leaders in King Cove. They want to build a road to nearby Cold Bay and its all-weather airport. But the road would go through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and President Obama’s Interior secretary blocked it. Haaland has promised to meet with local leaders before committing to a position.

RELATED: COVID hospitalizations in Alaska are at an all-time high

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.