Murkowski calls on Alaskans to ‘show some kindness’ amid COVID tensions

Woman stands at podium, speaking
Sen. Lisa Murkowski called out bad behavior toward fatigued health care workers and issued a plea for civility. (C-SPAN video still)

Lisa Murkowski took to the floor of the U.S. Senate Friday to call on Alaskans to be kinder to health care workers and to each other.

“We can have disagreements. We can have differing points of view,” Sen. Murkowski said. “We can express them without degrading one another, without denigrating one another, without humiliating and mocking one another.”

Alaska’s senior senator, a moderate Republican, cited Alaska’s worst-in-the nation COVID case rate and its maxed-out hospitals. Murkowski said exhausted hospital workers deserve appreciation but have been mocked, threatened and even spat upon when they’ve called for public health measures. 

“They will literally turn the other cheek and make sure that the care that they are providing in that ICU, in that ER, is without discrimination as to whether or not you have been vaccinated or not,” she said. “They are going to be there to take care of you. So, please, can we please show some kindness to one another at these times of stress?”

RELATED: In ERs and public meetings, Alaskans rage at health care workers trying to stem COVID spread

She called it “shocking” that people at a public meeting in Anchorage this week wore yellow Stars of David to protest a proposed mask mandate by likening it to the Holocaust.

Her plea for civility may serve to widen the gulf between Murkowski and Alaska conservatives. Many in the right-wing of her party have downplayed the hospital crisis, accused health care workers of exaggerating and cast doubt on mask use and vaccines.

RELATED: Discord over masks escalates with arrests, Holocaust comparisons at the Anchorage Assembly

Murkowski said she saw the hospital crisis first-hand in Fairbanks a couple of weekends ago, when she went to the emergency room with a loved one. She did not name him, but said he had a non-COVID emergency. Because intensive care units around the state were full, she said she had to prepare for the possibility he’d be medevaced to Seattle or Portland.

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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.