Alaska Government Official Says People Should ‘Party Like It’s New Year’s Eve’ Ahead of Bar Closures

An Alaskan government official advised people to gather and party on Monday ahead of bars closing in the area, as COVID-19 cases surge in the state.

© Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images/Getty
US-HEALTH-VIRUS The reflection of pedestrians wearing facemeasks are seen as they walk past beer taps in a bar in Los Angeles on June 29, 2020 a day after the state’s governor ordered the immediate closure of bars in a number of California counties, including Los Angeles County, due to rising spread of COVID-19 cases. An Alaskan government official advised people to gather and party on Monday ahead of bars closing in the area.

“Monday night, go to your favorite bar and party like it’s New Year’s Eve,” Governor Mike Dunleavy’s director of communications and community outreach, Dave Stieren, wrote in a November 26 Facebook post.

Stieren continued: “Dress up. Uber. Whatever. Do it.”

On November 30, Jeff Turner, a spokesman for Dunleavy, told local paper Anchorage Daily News in a statement that “Dave Stieren’s comments were made on his own personal social media accounts and are his own personal opinions. Those comments do not reflect the policies of the Dunleavy administration regarding COVID-19.”

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However, the paper also noted that Turner didn’t respond to the question of why the public should see Stieren’s comments as separate from the administration, given his role as communications director.

Stieren’s post came a day after Anchorage Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson announced her plan to impose a modified shutdown with the aim of curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

From December 1 to January 1, bars and restaurants are required to end indoor service, restricting them to takeout, delivery and outdoor dining only, Quinn-Davidson said in a community briefing on November 25, reported by the Anchorage Daily News.

Under Quinn-Davidson’s plan also limited public-facing businesses, including retail, gyms and salons, to operate at 25 percent capacity. Theaters and other indoor entertainment businesses are required to remain closed.

Over 511 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Alaska on November 30, according to data from The New York Times. On average the state has seen 611 new cases each day, an increase of 5 percent compared with two weeks prior. Over the course of the pandemic, Alaska reported over 32,400 cases and 115 deaths.

Stieren since edited his post. He added a line that said: “Or pay a tab that you’d have IF you would go out.”

However, Stieren also reportedly posted to the Facebook page of a local bar in Anchorage, the Hideaway Club.

“Since the Mayor is killing us, New Year’s Eve Party Monday the 30th at the Hideaway? The answer, of course, is yes,” Stieren said in his post to the bar.

Stieren was a conservative talk show host for KFQD, an Anchorage radio station. He was then hired as the communications director under the Dunleavy administration in 2019.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, Dunleavy said, “Mr. Stieren will serve as the bridge between Alaskans and this administration. He will be an effective combination of communication and outreach,” at the time of hiring Stieren.

Dunleavy’s office didn’t respond to Newsweek’s request for comment in time for publication.

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