Legislature(2019 - 2020)Anch LIO Lg Conf Rm

07/15/2020 10:00 AM House HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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10:02:42 AM Start
10:02:56 AM Presentation(s): Covid Safety at High Risk Facilities
11:59:29 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Teleconference <Listen Only> --
Joint with House STA
+ Presentation: COVID Safety at High Risk TELECONFERENCED
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
                         JOINT MEETING                                                                                        
             HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
      HOUSE HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                     
                       Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                        
                         July 15, 2020                                                                                          
                           10:02 a.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                          
 Representative Zack Fields, Co-Chair                                                                                           
Representative    Jonathan    Kreiss-Tomkins,   Co-Chair    (via                                                                
 Representative Grier Hopkins (via teleconference)                                                                              
 Representative Steve Thompson (via teleconference)                                                                             
 Representative Sarah Vance (via teleconference)                                                                                
HOUSE HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
 Representative Tiffany Zulkosky, Chair (via teleconference)                                                                    
 Representative Ivy Spohnholz, Vice Chair (via teleconference)                                                                  
 Representative Matt Claman (via teleconference)                                                                                
 Representative Harriet Drummond (via teleconference)                                                                           
 Representative Geran Tarr (via teleconference)                                                                                 
 Representative Sharon Jackson (via teleconference)                                                                             
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                          
 Representative Andi Story                                                                                                      
 Representative Laddie Shaw                                                                                                     
HOUSE HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
 Representative Lance Pruitt                                                                                                    
OTHER LEGISLATORS PRESENT                                                                                                     
Representative Sara Hannan (via teleconference)                                                                                 
Representative Kelly Merrick (via teleconference)                                                                               
Representative Mike Prax (via teleconference)                                                                                   
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
PRESENTATION(S):  COVID SAFETY AT HIGH RISK FACILITIES                                                                          
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
MARVIN JONES, President/Executive Board Member                                                                                  
Unite Here Local 878                                                                                                            
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 safety at high-risk facilities.                                                                                              
JOSHUA WILSON, Business Agent                                                                                                   
Alaska Correctional Officers Association                                                                                        
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 safety at high-risk facilities.                                                                                              
JAKE METCALFE, Executive Director                                                                                               
Alaska State Employee Association                                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 safety at high-risk facilities.                                                                                              
BARRY YABYABIN, Juvenile Justice Officer                                                                                        
McLaughlin Youth Center                                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 safety at high-risk facilities.                                                                                              
CORINNE CONLON                                                                                                                  
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 safety at high-risk facilities.                                                                                              
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
10:02:42 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR ZACK FIELDS called the joint meeting of the House State                                                              
Affairs  Standing  Committee  and  the House  Health  and  Social                                                               
Services   Standing   Committee   to    order   at   10:02   a.m.                                                               
Representatives  Hopkins  (via   teleconference),  Thompson  (via                                                               
teleconference), Vance (via  teleconference), Kreiss-Tomkins (via                                                               
teleconference),  Drummond  (via  teleconference),  Jackson  (via                                                               
teleconference),  Tarr (via  teleconference),  and Zulkosky  (via                                                               
teleconference), and  Fields were present  at the call  to order.                                                               
Representatives  Vance   (via  teleconference),   Spohnholz  (via                                                               
teleconference), and  Claman (via teleconference) arrived  as the                                                               
meeting was in progress.                                                                                                        
^PRESENTATION(S):  COVID Safety at High Risk Facilities                                                                         
     PRESENTATION(S):  COVID Safety at High Risk Facilities                                                                 
10:02:56 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS announced  that the only order  of business would                                                               
be a presentation on COVID-19 safety at high-risk facilities.                                                                   
10:04:03 AM                                                                                                                   
MARVIN JONES, President/Executive Board  Member, Unite Here Local                                                               
878, informed the committee that  Unite Here Local 878 represents                                                               
hotel workers  across Alaska.   He said members are  terrified of                                                               
going to work and getting sick  or spreading the virus to others.                                                               
He added that many of them  have families or take care of elderly                                                               
parents.  He  reported that there have been  four confirmed cases                                                               
of coronavirus  amongst Hilton Anchorage employees.   He recalled                                                               
testimony  from  the previous  committee  hearing  about a  hotel                                                               
worker who  was exposed  to an  infected guest.   He  claimed the                                                               
hotel knew the guest was infected  and did not inform the workers                                                               
for  several  days.    He  stressed  the  need  for  enforcement,                                                               
decisiveness,  and  a  way  to  shut down  hotels  that  are  not                                                               
operating  safely,  "before  it's  too late."    Furthermore,  he                                                               
recounted that quarantined  hotel guests are free to  move in and                                                               
out  of the  hotel  and  hold gatherings  that  could spread  the                                                               
virus.     He  opined   that  implementing   additional  cleaning                                                               
procedures and clear,  enforceable rules could lower  the risk of                                                               
transmission at  hotels.  He  also provided three  suggestions to                                                               
increase  hotel  safety  during  this  time.    Firstly,  provide                                                               
workers  and   hotel  guests  with   masks  and   PPE;  secondly,                                                               
immediately  inform  workers of  a  positive  case; and  thirdly,                                                               
provide  workers  with paid  leave  to  get tested,  await  their                                                               
results  in self-quarantine,  and continue  quarantining if  they                                                               
are infected.  He explained  that workers feel financial pressure                                                               
to work even  if it's not safe.   He noted that  he recently made                                                               
several visits  to hotels throughout  Anchorage and  is extremely                                                               
concerned with the lack of preparation and safety protocols.                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  FIELDS   introduced  a  video  recorded   by  a  Hilton                                                               
Anchorage employee.                                                                                                             
10:08:04 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS played the video from 10:08 a.m. to 10:13 a.m.                                                                  
10:13:12 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS  said last  week, the  committee heard  about the                                                               
lack of  state regulations  pertaining to  workplace safety.   He                                                               
apologized  for the  video's sound  quality, adding  that it  was                                                               
recorded during  a conversation  with the  employer's supervisor.                                                               
He explained that in the video,  [it sounds like] the employee is                                                               
being pressured  to work  in unsafe  conditions while  awaiting a                                                               
coronavirus test result.                                                                                                        
10:14:05 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON provided her  interpretation of the video.                                                               
She  expressed concern  about Mr.  Jones' comments  regarding the                                                               
[Coast]  Inn  not  being  cleaned  properly.    She  offered  her                                                               
understanding that the FMLA [Family  and Medical Leave Act] would                                                               
cover the pay for an employee who tests positive for COVID-19.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS, recognizing the  poor sound quality, asked                                                               
Mr. Jones  to summarize  the video.   Additionally, he  asked for                                                               
further  detail  on  staffing  and cleaning  for  COVID-19.    He                                                               
acknowledged  Representative  Jackson's point  regarding  federal                                                               
laws  for  coronavirus-related  leave  and  asked  Mr.  Jones  to                                                               
address whether that's being complied with.                                                                                     
10:16:30 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. JONES  noted that he  personally spoke with the  employee who                                                               
recorded the  video.  He said  the employee was trying  to convey                                                               
that  she got  tested for  COVID-19 after  experiencing symptoms.                                                               
In the  video, she was attempting  to verify if she  was expected                                                               
to return  to work in  three days if her  test was negative.   He                                                               
explained   that  confusion   ensued  between   the  worker   and                                                               
supervisor regarding  the worker's return  to work.  He  said the                                                               
hotel began  providing PPE  for its workers  in the  last several                                                               
weeks.   He  also  reported  that there  was  only one  sanitizer                                                               
dispenser  in the  basement level  where both  locker rooms,  the                                                               
employee  cafeteria,  engineering,   and  security  are  located.                                                               
Furthermore, he  said there  was no  social distancing  policy in                                                               
the break  room and  soap and paper  towel dispensers  were empty                                                               
for  an  entire  two-week  period.   He  noted  that  Unite  Here                                                               
acquired video that supports those  observations.  He stated that                                                               
now,  the hotel  has implemented  social distancing  and provided                                                               
basic cleaning supplies, such as  paper towels.  He expressed his                                                               
concern that  part of  the hotel is  being used  for quarantining                                                               
cannery  employees.    He  reported  that  hotel  employees  were                                                               
entering the  cannery workers' rooms without  knowledge that they                                                               
were unsafe and restricted.   Furthermore, he said there has been                                                               
no COVID-19 training provided to the  hotel workers thus far.  He                                                               
reiterated  that   workers  are   scared  because   four  [hotel]                                                               
employees have tested positive.                                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR FIELDS asked if the  state should issue regulations that                                                               
provide workers  with the  ability to  not show  up to  an unsafe                                                               
workplace and protect them from retaliation for that decision.                                                                  
10:20:41 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. JONES answered, "definitely."                                                                                               
10:20:52 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  asked if the  Hilton Anchorage  was invited                                                               
to testify.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS said Hilton Anchorage  was not invited.  He                                                               
stated that the  hotel would have been added to  the agenda if he                                                               
was made  aware of the  video prior  to yesterday.   He indicated                                                               
that  the  committee  would reconvene,  possibly  next  week,  to                                                               
continue examining workplace issues.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  implored the committee to  "afford everyone                                                               
due  process if  they are  going to  be publicly  exposed."   She                                                               
opined that  the [Hilton Anchorage]  should have  the opportunity                                                               
to share what  measures they have taken, or not  taken, to ensure                                                               
the safety of their employees.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  agreed.   He said  he would  invite Hilton                                                               
Anchorage to  testify on  COVID-19 safety issues  next week.   He                                                               
introduced  the  next  testifier,  Joshua Wilson,  who  would  be                                                               
revisiting  the discussion  on high-risk  facilities.   He  noted                                                               
that  national  statistics indicate  as  many  as 40  percent  of                                                               
deaths in  the U.S. have  occurred in high-risk  facilities, such                                                               
as prisons and long-term care facilities.                                                                                       
10:22:54 AM                                                                                                                   
JOSHUA  WILSON,  Business  Agent,  Alaska  Correctional  Officers                                                               
Association, said it's imperative  that correctional officers and                                                               
first responders have the appropriate resources to combat COVID-                                                                
19.  He remarked that  the Department of Corrections (DOC) cannot                                                               
adhere to  the governor's public  health mandate due  to facility                                                               
setting  in  which  social  distancing  is not  an  option.    He                                                               
explained that certain facilities house  over 100 inmates per mod                                                               
and  remand  over   600  inmates  per  week.     He  stated  that                                                               
coronavirus will get into these  facilities, so mitigation is the                                                               
priority.   He applauded DOC  for announcing that it  would start                                                               
testing  every remand  entering the  facilities; nonetheless,  he                                                               
said  there's  more  that  could  be  done.    He  reported  that                                                               
nationally,  COVID-19  has taken  the  lives  of 55  correctional                                                               
officers.  In  Alaska, five facilities have  had confirmed COVID-                                                               
19 cases,  including Lemon  Creek Correctional  Center, Fairbanks                                                               
Correctional Center,  Anchorage Correctional Center,  Goose Creek                                                               
Correctional  Center,  and  the  Mat-Su Pretrial  Facility.    He                                                               
explained that  in 2019, DOC  experienced a staffing  crisis that                                                               
still exists.   He said  even today, the department  doesn't have                                                               
the  necessary number  of staff  to meet  the basic  security and                                                               
operational requirements within  facilities, resulting in chronic                                                               
reliance on overtime,  which is costly for DOC.   Furthermore, he                                                               
explained that  "forced" overtime leads to  officer burnout, high                                                               
turnover,  and rolling  lockdowns throughout  facilities, all  of                                                               
which  are  intensified   by  the  addition  of   COVID-19.    He                                                               
acknowledged  the   legislature  for  recognizing   the  existing                                                               
problems  and in  2019, appropriating  funds to  recruit officers                                                               
and open Palmer  Correctional Center; however, he  noted that the                                                               
Palmer facility has  yet to open.  He offered  his belief that if                                                               
the Palmer Correctional Center had  opened, it could be operating                                                               
as   an   area   for   quarantine   or   high-risk   individuals.                                                               
Additionally, he  reflected on funds appropriated  for an officer                                                               
recruitment team.  He expressed  his frustration that the team is                                                               
not operational despite  the funds being available  since July 1,                                                               
2020.  He  addressed PPE and emphasized the  importance of making                                                               
the correct equipment available to correctional officers.                                                                       
10:28:18 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  WILSON   opined  that  there  should   be  more  coordinated                                                               
communication  between DOC  and  correctional  officers or  their                                                               
representatives.  He  noted that the state  canceled their weekly                                                               
meetings  with unions  over  a month  ago.   He  said the  Alaska                                                               
Correctional Officers  Association (ACOA)  filed an  unfair labor                                                               
practice in  an effort to  bargain for proper PPE,  leave related                                                               
to COVID-19, and health and  safety requirements.  He stated that                                                               
DOC  is  not  telling  ACOA when  a  correctional  officer  tests                                                               
positive and has  only met with the association once  in the past                                                               
9 months.   He reiterated  that correctional officers are  on the                                                               
frontline of  the COVID-19 pandemic.   He opined that  DOC should                                                               
be  willing  to  bargain  with the  officers'  representative  to                                                               
ensure that they have the necessary resources.                                                                                  
10:30:11 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  ZULKOSKY  said  officials in  other  states  have                                                               
suggested that  correctional facilities  are not at  risk because                                                               
they are effectively  closed off from the public.   She asked Mr.                                                               
Wilson to  highlight how  clusters and  outbreaks of  COVID-19 in                                                               
correctional  facilities   can  impact  broader   communities  in                                                               
MR.  WILSON restated  that over  600  people are  remanded to  an                                                               
Alaska correctional facility every week,  but most of them do not                                                               
stay.  He  recalled two positive cases  from remanded individuals                                                               
at the  Mat-Su Pretrial Facility,  adding that by the  time their                                                               
positive  results came  back, both  individuals had  already been                                                               
released into  the community.   Furthermore, he pointed  out that                                                               
with over  100 inmates per  mod, transmission can  easily spread.                                                               
He said there  are challenges within every  facility and creating                                                               
distance is ideal but challenging.                                                                                              
10:33:01 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE ZULKOSKY  referencing the outbreak at  Lemon Creek                                                               
Correctional  Center, asked  what mitigating  actions were  taken                                                               
and how  it impacted worker  safety.  Additionally, she  asked if                                                               
the outbreak could have been handled differently.                                                                               
MR. WILSON said  the goal is to mitigate the  spread and transfer                                                               
as  much  as   possible.    He  opined   that  quickly  conveying                                                               
information to  staff and inmates  is beneficial.   Additionally,                                                               
he expressed his hope that  upon the identification of a positive                                                               
case, the  facility would  reach out  to any  potentially exposed                                                               
individuals and inform the entire  facility of testing procedures                                                               
and  locations.   He also  recommended providing  the appropriate                                                               
PPE  to correctional  officers, staff,  and inmates,  as well  as                                                               
offering  alternative  housing for  officers  who  don't want  to                                                               
infect their families.                                                                                                          
10:35:46 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE ZULKOSKY asked if  DOC has followed that preferred                                                               
process   when   confirmed   cases  have   surfaced   in   Alaska                                                               
correctional facilities.                                                                                                        
MR. WILSON  said DOC has  initiated contact tracing and,  in some                                                               
cases, has  informed the entire  facility staff.  He  offered his                                                               
belief  that  there  could   be  better  communication  regarding                                                               
testing   availability   and    the   alternative   housing   for                                                               
correctional officers.                                                                                                          
10:37:50 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND  asked how many confirmed  COVID-19 cases                                                               
have been  identified amongst DOC  staff and inmates and  how the                                                               
virus  entered  the  facilities.    Additionally,  she  asked  if                                                               
inmates  are currently  allowed  to have  visitors  and what  the                                                               
visiting procedures are.                                                                                                        
MR.  WILSON  said  it  is  unknown  how  COVID-19  got  into  the                                                               
correctional facilities.  He noted  that the DOC posts the number                                                               
of  positive inmate  cases  on  its website.    He reported  that                                                               
positive cases  include one inmate  at the Goose  Creek facility,                                                               
one  at  the  Anchorage  facility,  and  four  remands  from  the                                                               
Fairbanks and Mat-Su  facilities.  He added that  there have been                                                               
positive staff  cases at multiple  facilities; however,  DOC does                                                               
not inform ACOA when a correctional officer tests positive.                                                                     
10:41:55 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND asked  if DOC was invited  to testify and                                                               
respond to these issues.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS  said  the   department  was  invited  but                                                               
declined to attend.                                                                                                             
10:42:23 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON  sought to  clarify whether  visitation is                                                               
allowed in  Alaska correctional facilities  and what  the current                                                               
protocols are.                                                                                                                  
MR. WILSON said  there are no visitors allowed in  DOC right now.                                                               
He opined that  it's a good policy that's mitigating  the risk of                                                               
COVID-19  entering  facilities  and protecting  both  the  inmate                                                               
population and  the staff.   He noted that inmates  are currently                                                               
allowed  additional  phone calls  so  they  can communicate  with                                                               
their families.   He  said the  facilities are  also implementing                                                               
the  use  of  telecourt  functions  and  hearings  via  phone  or                                                               
computer to reduce transportation and potential transmission.                                                                   
10:44:16 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS  asked if  there  is  a universal  testing                                                               
procedure for DOC employees.                                                                                                    
10:44:39 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  WILSON explained  that on  July 1,  2020, DOC  began testing                                                               
every  remand that  enters a  correctional  facility.   Regarding                                                               
inmates  that are  already  held  in the  system,  there's not  a                                                               
process unless  they show COVID-19  symptoms, in which  case they                                                               
are  quarantined in  a quarantine-specific  mod.   He shared  his                                                               
understanding  that transferred  prisoners are  also tested.   He                                                               
expressed his  hope that DOC  will continue to test  every inmate                                                               
before  being  transferred  to another  facility  to  reduce  the                                                               
possibility of spread.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS asked if  correctional officers have access                                                               
to N95 masks.                                                                                                                   
MR.  WILSON  said  sometimes  yes, sometimes  no.    He  recalled                                                               
officers voicing concern about being  asked to wear the same mask                                                               
throughout the entire workweek.   Regarding the provision of PPE,                                                               
he  expressed further  concern that  other professions  are being                                                               
prioritized  over correctional  officers.    He reemphasized  the                                                               
importance  of  providing  PPE  to  frontline  workers,  such  as                                                               
medical staff and correctional officers.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  pointed out that police  officers have had                                                               
access to N95  masks since the start of the  pandemic.  He opined                                                               
that correctional  officers should as  well.  He said  PPE should                                                               
be  available in  sufficient  supply to  function  properly.   He                                                               
asked  if the  facilities' HVAC  systems have  been updated  with                                                               
adequate  filtration and  appropriate modifications  to introduce                                                               
more outside air rather than recirculating the same air.                                                                        
10:48:27 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  WILSON   deferred  to  DOC.     He  reiterated   that  clear                                                               
communication   would   address   many  concerns   expressed   by                                                               
correctional officers and other staff within the facilities.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  sought to  clarify the  intended timeframe                                                               
for reopening  the Palmer Correctional  Center, as it  could help                                                               
relieve overcrowding and reduce the risk of transmission.                                                                       
10:49:27 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. WILSON  explained that in 2019,  the legislature appropriated                                                               
over  $16 million  dollars to  open  Palmer Correctional  Center;                                                               
however, DOC  opted to  attempt to  privatize the  department and                                                               
send Alaskan inmates  out of state.  He  shared his understanding                                                               
that the decision  was heavily criticized by  the legislature and                                                               
ultimately, DOC withdrew  the effort.  He said the  intent was to                                                               
open  the facility  last year,  but  it is  still not  open.   He                                                               
expressed  his  hope  that  the  facility  could  hold  high-risk                                                               
individuals or confirmed positive cases.                                                                                        
10:50:45 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE asked Mr. Wilson  if he represents the labor                                                               
MR.  WILSON said  yes, he  represents  ACOA with  the union  that                                                               
represents correctional officers in Alaska.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE asked if ACOA collects union dues.                                                                         
MR. WILSON answered yes.                                                                                                        
10:51:16 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  asked if the  union has made any  effort to                                                               
provide correctional officers with PPE.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS  asked  Mr.   Wilson  to  provide  further                                                               
background  on workplace  conditions  and collectively  bargained                                                               
institutions under state and federal law.                                                                                       
10:52:04 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  WILSON responding  to Representative  Vance, explained  that                                                               
ACOA  was coordinating  with several  groups to  provide officers                                                               
cloth masks, as N95 masks  were unavailable.  He said ultimately,                                                               
DOC provided each officer with  two cloth masks and are currently                                                               
working towards  providing them  with the  required PPE,  per CDC                                                               
recommendations.   He stated that  ACOA continues to try  to work                                                               
with DOC  on equipment availability; however,  the department has                                                               
refused to bargain those issues.                                                                                                
10:53:43 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  asked if the  cloth masks  are insufficient                                                               
protection.  She sought to  clarify whether ACOA has specifically                                                               
requested N95 masks from the department.                                                                                        
MR.  WILSON  clarified that  ACOA  would  like  N95 masks  to  be                                                               
available for  the correctional officers  who want to  wear them.                                                               
He offered  his understanding that  the CDC recommends  N95 masks                                                               
when  dealing with  positive cases  or individuals  with COVID-19                                                               
symptoms.   He  said ACOA  negotiates  and bargains  for the  PPE                                                               
available  to officers.   He  added that  AOCA encouraged  DOC to                                                               
apply  for $600,000  in CARES  Act funds  for PPE  and additional                                                               
costs related to COVID-19.                                                                                                      
10:55:41 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE asked  how many N95 masks  would suffice for                                                               
correctional officers.                                                                                                          
MR. WILSON  said N95 masks  should be available for  officers who                                                               
want to  use them.   He  shared his  understanding that,  per CDC                                                               
guidelines, masks should be single use.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  agreed that masks  are supposed to  be for                                                               
one-time use.   He opined  that the federal  government "bungled"                                                               
the provision of PPE.  He  said health care providers do not have                                                               
enough PPE;  nonetheless, they are  not expected to wear  one N95                                                               
mask for the entire week like correctional officers are.                                                                        
10:57:14 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  VANCE expressed  interest in  providing DOC  with                                                               
access  to   mask  sterilization  to  extend   usage  for  proper                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS directed attention  to an article, entitled                                                               
"Punishment  by Pandemic,"  [included in  the committee  packet].                                                               
He explained  that the article highlighted  a worst-case scenario                                                               
for   correctional  institutions   and  reported   on  Wellpath's                                                               
treatment  of  coronavirus  inside penitentiaries.    Considering                                                               
Wellpath's  role  at  Alaska   Psychiatric  Institute  (API),  he                                                               
informed  the  committee  that a  representative  from  DHSS  was                                                               
invited to testify but declined to attend.                                                                                      
10:59:08 AM                                                                                                                   
JAKE   METCALFE,  Executive   Director,  Alaska   State  Employee                                                               
Association,  stated  that  ASEA   represents  over  8,000  state                                                               
employees, many  of whom are  essential workers on  the frontline                                                               
of the  pandemic.   He said  they risk their  own health  and the                                                               
health of  their loved  ones to  keep Alaska  citizens safe.   He                                                               
added  that their  only  request is  for a  safe  workplace.   He                                                               
reported that  many state employees fear  retaliation for voicing                                                               
concern.   He indicated  that their stories  matter and  read the                                                               
following email [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                
     On Monday, four of six  probation officers in my office                                                                    
     were exposed  to a defendant  that tested  positive for                                                                    
     COVID-19.   Since that time,  the whole office  has had                                                                    
     close contact with each  other throughout the workdays.                                                                    
     Today,  we  were  notified  of  the  defendant  testing                                                                    
     positive and three  of the six officers  were sent home                                                                    
     with no  guidance on  when they  could return  to work.                                                                    
     The pretrial supervisor had  previously denied us being                                                                    
     able  to  telework  as  we   are  returning  to  normal                                                                    
     operations.   Despite  that statement,  we  are not  at                                                                    
     normal operations and  we are being put at  risk due to                                                                    
     the number of people we have  in and out of our office.                                                                    
     I  realize that  the union  is fighting  this, to  some                                                                    
     extent, in  every office,  but wanted  you to  have the                                                                    
     basic information from  my office.  I hope  are able to                                                                    
     work from home still and stay healthy.                                                                                     
MR. METCALFE  noted that ASEA  received a follow-up  email, which                                                               
read as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                
     Thus  far, the  state ordered  the three  officers that                                                                    
     were exposed  to get tested.   It sounds like  they are                                                                    
     supposed to  use their insurance  for testing  and then                                                                    
     if  there is  an out-of-pocket  co-pay, the  state will                                                                    
     reimburse them.  Once officer  has returned to work and                                                                    
     two offices  are still  awaiting results.   I  went and                                                                    
     had  myself tested  due to  having secondary  insurance                                                                    
     through  my wife  that allowed  no cost  testing.   The                                                                    
     other two officers ... have not been tested.                                                                               
ME. METCALFE said  the next email, from an ASEA  member who works                                                               
at  the  Pioneer  Home, read  as  follows  [original  punctuation                                                               
     I  am  a nurse  III  at  the  Pioneer  Home.   We  were                                                                    
     informed  last  week that  the  families  are going  to                                                                    
     start coming  and seeing their relatives  living in the                                                                    
     facility  today.    I understand  there  is  a  concern                                                                    
     regarding  the residents'  mental state  for not  being                                                                    
     able  to   see  their  loved  ones,   but  taking  into                                                                    
     consideration Maslow's  hierarchy of needs, it's  not a                                                                    
     priority.   As  a  nurse, it  is  still their  physical                                                                    
     health and safety  that comes first and that  I am just                                                                    
     concerned about  the residents being exposed  to COVID-                                                                    
     19, getting sick, and dying  as well as the whole staff                                                                    
     getting infected.   We were all tested  for COVID-19 on                                                                    
     June  22 -  staff and  residents  - and  then just  the                                                                    
     staff every two weeks.  And  there's no way to find out                                                                    
     that those  visiting new families  have been  tested or                                                                    
     not.   It  is pointless  at this  moment for  us, staff                                                                    
     only, to be tested for  COVID-19 when the residents are                                                                    
     continuously  being exposed.    I spoke  to my  nursing                                                                    
     supervisor  about my  concern and  we are  on the  same                                                                    
     page.  She informed me with  regret that it is an order                                                                    
     from the corporate office.   Several staff members came                                                                    
     to me today  stating that they don't  feel safe working                                                                    
     here  anymore.   They  are  getting  anxieties and  are                                                                    
     scared  for the  residents' health  and eventually  the                                                                    
     staff and our  respective families if they  turn out to                                                                    
     be asymptomatic and positive.   I for one, have a child                                                                    
     I am trying  my best to protect from getting  sick.  As                                                                    
     an advocate for the residents,  I feel I am responsible                                                                    
     for making  the residents, as  well as the  staff, feel                                                                    
     that  they  are  protected.   But  allowing  visitation                                                                    
     amidst  this  pandemic  is  something  I  see  that  is                                                                    
     unnecessary.  I'd  like to request an  extension of the                                                                    
     lockdown and not allow  visitation until further notice                                                                    
     as cases of  COVID-19 have doubled.  Also,  I'd like my                                                                    
     identity to be kept anonymous.   Thank you.  Hoping for                                                                    
     your kind consideration.                                                                                                   
11:04:58 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  METCALFE noted  that ASEA  hears about  similar issues  from                                                               
API.   He  said API  has voiced  concern about  inconsistent mask                                                               
policies,  impossible social  distancing  requirements, and  PPE.                                                               
He  stated  that ASEA  members  would  like  to work  safely  and                                                               
provide  services to  the public;  they want  to be  part of  the                                                               
solution  to this  public safety  crisis.   However, for  that to                                                               
happen,  they must  be involved  in the  decision-making process;                                                               
they  need  to be  listened  to;  and  they need  clear,  concise                                                               
communication from employers.  He  emphasized that ASEA has asked                                                               
the state  to negotiate on  health and safety issues  and doesn't                                                               
understand why it is not happening.                                                                                             
11:07:28 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  inquired about Wellpath's role  during the                                                               
pandemic   in  terms   of   management  and   coronavirus-related                                                               
MR. METCALFE stated that  currently, communication is nonexistent                                                               
between  ASEA  and  DHSS.    He noted  that  ASEA  is  discussing                                                               
facility operations  with API's governing  body.  He  offered his                                                               
understanding  that  Wellpath is  managing  the  facility with  a                                                               
limited contract.  He deferred to DHSS for further comment.                                                                     
11:09:05 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS restated  that administration  declined to                                                               
appear.   Considering Wellpath is literally  condemning people in                                                               
facilities  to  death  in  other  states, he  said  it  would  be                                                               
important to hear  an explanation of Wellpath's  role and whether                                                               
Alaskans  will  receive  fairer  treatment.    He  asserted  that                                                               
Wellpath's record  in other states  is abominable  and encouraged                                                               
committee members  to refer  to the  aforementioned article.   He                                                               
asked Mr.  Metcalfe if  the department  is implementing  HVAC and                                                               
other  air quality  improvements and  reminded members  that many                                                               
existing HVAC systems do not  have adequate filtration to capture                                                               
COVID-19   particles;   therefore,   recirculating   air   within                                                               
facilities can spread the virus.                                                                                                
MR. METCALFE said  the issue of visitation policy has  come up in                                                               
pioneer homes and the McLaughlin  Youth Center.  He expressed his                                                               
concern that if people are  brought into facilities without being                                                               
tested,  recirculated  air  could potentially  spread  the  virus                                                               
throughout  the  institutions.   He  said  opening facilities  to                                                               
visitors  indicates that  there is  no longer  an emergency.   He                                                               
added that  the employees have  the right to negotiate  to ensure                                                               
satisfactory health and safety practices  are being followed.  He                                                               
emphasized  the  importance  of health  and  safety  discussions,                                                               
clear and concise communication, and transparency.                                                                              
11:14:01 AM                                                                                                                   
BARRY  YABYABIN,  Juvenile   Justice  Officer,  McLaughlin  Youth                                                               
Center,  informed  the  committee  that  he  has  been  a  public                                                               
employee for 13 years.  He  shared his belief that public service                                                               
is  a calling  to serve  the people  of Alaska,  even during  the                                                               
pandemic.   He acknowledged  the importance  of providing  PPE to                                                               
public employees  to allow them to  continue to work safely.   He                                                               
explained that  McLaughlin Youth Center is  a seven-unit facility                                                               
that works  with youth, ages  18-21.  He  said this is  the third                                                               
week  that various  units in  McLaughlin  are without  sanitation                                                               
products,  including  wipes and  soap,  which  has compelled  his                                                               
colleagues  to bring  in products  from home.   Additionally,  he                                                               
said there is  a lack of employee  participation regarding policy                                                               
and mitigation  plans.  He  continued to explain that  a majority                                                               
of colleagues  have voiced concern  about inadequate  testing and                                                               
screening  protocols and  opined  that the  state  is not  taking                                                               
their  health seriously.   To  conclude, he  stated that  24-hour                                                               
(indisc.)  are vulnerable  and  require  clear and  comprehensive                                                               
mitigation   plans  that   must   be   developed  with   employee                                                               
involvement,  as well  as other  stakeholders and  professionals.                                                               
He opined that  communication needs to improve,  especially as it                                                               
relates  to  PPE  availability and  resupply.    Furthermore,  he                                                               
shared his understanding that the  communication between ASEA and                                                               
the  state  requires  additional  improvement.    He  added  that                                                               
everyone  should  have  access  to testing  especially  upon  the                                                               
identification of a positive case.                                                                                              
11:20:30 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS recalled the  exchange between the attorney                                                               
general and Anchorage's municipal  attorney regarding the mayor's                                                               
mask requirement in  shared spaces.  He asked for  ASEA's take on                                                               
that  public   dispute  and  questioned  whether   employees  and                                                               
visitors are wearing masks in state facilities.                                                                                 
MR. YABYABIN reported  that there is signage  that emphasizes the                                                               
importance of  wearing a  mask.  He  also expressed  concern that                                                               
visitation  protocol  does  not  require testing  and  relies  on                                                               
temperature  screening  alone.     He  noted  that   he  and  his                                                               
colleagues do wear masks during  their shifts at McLaughlin Youth                                                               
11:22:59 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE    JACKSON    expressed     her    concern    with                                                               
inconsistencies in visitation policy.   She asked if masks are an                                                               
option for visitors.                                                                                                            
MR. YABYABIN  said thus far, no  visitors have refused to  wear a                                                               
mask;  nonetheless,  McLaughlin  staff  is  constantly  reminding                                                               
visitors to keep their masks on when inside the facility.                                                                       
11:24:12 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON  asked if  the facility has  the authority                                                               
to ask a visitor to leave if he or she refuses to wear a mask.                                                                  
MR. YABYABIN said he does not know.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON asked  the committee to follow  up on that                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS confirmed that.   He asked Mr. Metcalfe for                                                               
ASEA's position on Anchorage's face  covering mandate and whether                                                               
the mandate is being followed.                                                                                                  
11:25:45 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. METCALFE opined  that a mandatory mask  policy is appropriate                                                               
considering the recent surge in  coronavirus cases in Alaska.  He                                                               
added  that  masks  are  a   health  and  safety  precaution  for                                                               
correctional    officers   working    in   24-hour    facilities.                                                               
Additionally,  he said  a mask  policy should  be negotiated  for                                                               
procedural clarity and for worker and resident safety.                                                                          
11:28:25 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  DRUMMOND asked  if the  two coronavirus  cases in                                                               
McLaughlin Youth  Center are among  the staff or  [residents] and                                                               
what procedures have been followed.                                                                                             
MR. YABYABIN  clarified that  McLaughlin had  two total  cases to                                                               
date, but only  one case is currently active.   He explained that                                                               
the  resident who  tested positive  is quarantining  in an  empty                                                               
11:30:38 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND  asked how the staff  is interacting with                                                               
the quarantined resident.                                                                                                       
MR. YABYABIN  explained that the  quarantined resident  can still                                                               
make  phone calls,  eat meals,  and shower.   He  noted that  all                                                               
McLaughlin residents  are eating meals in  their respective units                                                               
to limit daily movement.                                                                                                        
11:32:06 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND deduced that  the quarantined resident is                                                               
still receiving  regular service from  the staff.  She  asked how                                                               
the  McLaughlin   staff  practices   social  distancing   in  the                                                               
MR.  YABYABIN  shared that  in  his  unit, social  distancing  is                                                               
difficult because 18 of the 20 beds  are full.  He said the staff                                                               
separates  chairs  and  utilizes   the  different  wings  in  the                                                               
building.  He added that  McLaughlin relies on opening windows or                                                               
doors to  circulate fresh air  as the  facility does not  have an                                                               
HVAC system.                                                                                                                    
11:33:42 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND asked if residents get time outside.                                                                    
MR. YABYABIN answered yes,  McLaughlin residents get recreational                                                               
time outside.                                                                                                                   
11:34:32 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS  reiterated  the  importance  of  adequate                                                               
filtration and  the introduction of  outdoor air.  He  noted that                                                               
because  most buildings  were  not designed  with  a pandemic  in                                                               
mind,  the committee  would  revisit the  issue  in a  subsequent                                                               
meeting  and  hear from  air  quality  experts about  indoor  air                                                               
quality, HVAC filters, and the introduction of outdoor air.                                                                     
11:35:37 AM                                                                                                                   
CORINNE  CONLON  offered  her   perspective  as  a  former  state                                                               
employee  who opted  to resign  from her  position due  to health                                                               
concerns.   She opined that  because she was fortunate  enough to                                                               
take time  off from work,  she can  speak more freely  than other                                                               
state  employees  about the  current  situation.   She  said  she                                                               
worked  for  the  Department of  Labor  &  Workforce  Development                                                               
(DLWD) as  an Employment Security Analyst  I.  On March  1, 2020,                                                               
she developed  sever bronchitis,  which caused her  to transition                                                               
to telework  until the  department asked  employees to  return to                                                               
their  offices on  June  8.   She  recalled  being  assured of  a                                                               
reopening plan  and being told not  to ask questions.   The plan,                                                               
she said,  was unveiled  on June 5,  and entailed  washing hands,                                                               
sanitizing workspaces, staying home  when sick, and optional mask                                                               
11:39:32 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. CONLON  explained that as  an employee with  health concerns,                                                               
she immediately  researched CDC guidelines and  Dr. Zink's online                                                               
posts  about  reopening and  indoor  workspaces.   She  said  she                                                               
developed  eight   questions,  which   she  took  to   her  union                                                               
representative.  She indicated that  health and safety procedures                                                               
lacked consistency;  for example,  within DLWD, telework  for one                                                               
division stretched  into August  and employees  were told  not to                                                               
enter  the  building unless  compelled,  while  her division  was                                                               
asked  to reenter  the  building on  June 1  for  training.   She                                                               
expressed concern  that employees do  not have a  voice regarding                                                               
the management  of health and  safety issues.   Additionally, she                                                               
expressed strong  concerns about  reentering an  environment with                                                               
recirculated air.   She highlighted  several remaining  topics of                                                               
concern, including procedures for  sick or at-risk employees, air                                                               
circulation,  and mask  policy.   Ultimately, she  explained that                                                               
her  health took  precedence over  her job  when human  resources                                                               
said she was required to return  to in-office work.  She said she                                                               
wanted  to share  her experience  because  many stated  employees                                                               
don't have the  ability to share openly for  fear of retaliation.                                                               
She recalled  that asking questions  during a staff  meeting felt                                                               
like pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior.                                                                             
11:45:45 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  ZULKOSKY  sought  to   clarify  that  as  a  DLWD                                                               
employee, Ms.  Conlon had  been informed  that DOA  would provide                                                               
guidance  for  the  return  to work,  which  was  ultimately  not                                                               
provided.  She asked if that is correct.                                                                                        
MS.  CONLON  offered  her understanding  that  the  division  was                                                               
looking towards DOA  for a reopening plan to use  as guidance for                                                               
returning to work at the DLWD office building.                                                                                  
11:46:46 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  ZULKOSKY  asked  if   AKOSH  is  responsible  for                                                               
providing  health   and  safety  regulations  for   state  office                                                               
MS.  CONLON  said  she  does  not know.    She  noted  that  upon                                                               
receiving  complaints regarding  health in  the job  centers, the                                                               
complaints were to be passed on to AKOSH.                                                                                       
11:48:06 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  ZULKOSKY expressed  her disappointment  regarding                                                               
the  missed  opportunity  in  terms  of  coordination  for  state                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  asserted that  DLWD, which is  supposed to                                                               
be   promulgating   workplace    safety   standards,   has   zero                                                               
understanding  of  virus  transmission  indoors,  notwithstanding                                                               
multiple hearings and widely available  information on the issue.                                                               
He  opined   that  the  lack   of  consistency  on   telework  is                                                               
disturbing.   Furthermore,  he observed  no  engagement with  the                                                               
union  on the  mandatory subject  of bargaining.   He  noted that                                                               
legally, the  administration must bargain on  issues of workplace                                                               
safety because  when a department  fails to do so,  employees are                                                               
placed in manifestly unsafe environments,  which forces them into                                                               
a  choice  between  work  or  health.     He  said  the  lack  of                                                               
recognition of an at-risk employee is "mindboggling."                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND  expressed condolences to Ms.  Conlon for                                                               
feeling like  she had  to leave  her job to  speak freely  to the                                                               
legislature  on  this  issue.     She  asked  whether  sanitizing                                                               
products were  provided or  if employees had  to bring  their own                                                               
from home to sanitize their workspace.                                                                                          
MS. CONLON said she can't answer  that because she met with human                                                               
resources  on Friday,  June  5 and  emailed  her resignation  the                                                               
following  Sunday;  therefore,  she   has  no  knowledge  of  the                                                               
workplace  procedures  on  Monday,  June 8.    She  assumed  that                                                               
sanitizing products were provided.                                                                                              
11:51:07 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   HANNAN  opined   that  Ms.   Conlon's  testimony                                                               
exemplifies  the disconnect  between what  legislators are  being                                                               
told and the reality that constituents are facing.                                                                              
11:52:33 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE PRAX  sought clarity  on the grievance  policy and                                                               
whether Ms. Conlon  had taken advantage of  other channels before                                                               
coming to the legislature.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS asked  if Mr.  Metcalfe could  discuss the                                                               
role of grievances and workplace safety issues.                                                                                 
11:53:26 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. METCALFE said there is a  grievance process when a portion of                                                               
contract is  violated; additionally,  the Alaska  Labor Relations                                                               
Agency ensures that labor laws are  followed.  He noted that ASEA                                                               
tried to negotiate with the  state before launching the grievance                                                               
and  arbitration  process  or   unfair  labor  practice  process;                                                               
however, the  state refused  to bargain  and continued  to impose                                                               
health  and safety  practices on  ASEA without  negotiating.   He                                                               
indicated that  consequently, ASEA was  pushed to file  an unfair                                                               
labor practice charge against the  state.  He explained that ASEA                                                               
has national  experts that could  help create  workplace policies                                                               
and  safety practices  that would  be  good for  everyone if  the                                                               
state would only sit down and engage with them.                                                                                 
11:56:28 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE PRAX  asked what stage the  negotiation process is                                                               
MR. METCALFE said  it is reaching a dead end.   He explained that                                                               
ASEA was attempting to communicate  with the administration since                                                               
March on these  issues.  He noted that initially,  the benefit of                                                               
the doubt  was given, but  now that facilities have  reopened, it                                                               
indicates  that  the situation  is  no  longer an  emergency  and                                                               
raises serious safety concerns.                                                                                                 
11:58:10 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMPSON   opined  that   there  is  a   lack  of                                                               
meaningful   communication  from   state   departments  and   the                                                               
administration.  He expressed concern  that people's concerns are                                                               
not being addressed or answered.                                                                                                
11:59:17 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  FIELDS  announced  that there  would  be  another                                                               
hearing on COVID-19 workplace safety issues.                                                                                    
11:59:29 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business  before the committees, the joint                                                               
meeting of  the House  State Affairs  Standing Committee  and the                                                               
House Health  and Social Services Standing  Committee meeting was                                                               
adjourned at 11:59 a.m.                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Inside a Prison Where the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Become A Death Sentence-6.22.2020 New Yorker.pdf HHSS 7/15/2020 10:00:00 AM
House HSS/STA 7/15/20