Governor Mike Dunlevy held a press conference Friday evening announcing two new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska and announced new restrictions to combat the spread of the Coronavirus.
The two new cases confirmed Friday were one additional case in Fairbanks and one in Ketchikan.
Dr. Anne Zink, chief medical director for the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) announced during the press conference that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alaska has increased to 14 with the two new confirmed cases.
The breakdown of the cases in Alaska are:
The case in Fairbanks is under investigation as to the type of transmission, the Ketchikan cases are confirmed to be travel related. No cases have been reported in Delta Junction.
None of the individuals confirmed to have the disease have experienced severe health issues said Governor Dunleavy.
Zink said that the state is working to improve test options and turnaround time on tests.
She said that the Food and Drug Administration has approved another piece of testing equipment that can be used to perform the tests.
One of the concerns with the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 is the strain it may place on the healthcare system. Zink said during the press conference that the state is currently seeking more test swabs for viral testing. She said one of the limitations on testing in Alaska is the number of swabs available. She asked that if any providers such as dentists, veterinarians, or clinics had the swabs in their office to get them to health care providers that are taking samples.
To help improve testing, two new machines have been approved for testing and will soon be available. Interestingly, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had one of the machines in its lab, and it has been moved to the DHSS lab to be used for testing for the Coronavirus.
Testing in the state is continuing to increase each day. Numbers released early Friday afternoon show a total of 698 tests performed. The number of tests each day has been regularly increasing since the beginning of the month, with number a little over 100 per day as of Thursday.
Nationally, numbers of confirmed cases are just over 15,000 with most causes of transmission under investigation, but the Centers for Disease Control says the numbers it is reporting are likely less than the numbers of confirmed cases actually existing.
Because most of the cases are travel related, the state is implementing travel restrictions. Zink advised all Alaskans to cease all nonessential out of state travel and those out of state are encouraged to return home if they are planning to return in the next 30 days. Tourists or those planning to travel to Alaska for nonessential purposes are to suspend their travel and visitors are asked to return home immediately.
Travel related business, such as tour operators, are asked to suspend reservations.
Any persons currently away from Alaska and returning are being asked to self-isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival in Alaska. Anyone returned from a Level 3 area – China, portions of Europe, Iran, Ireland, Malaysia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom are mandated to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Zink emphasized the importance of the 14 days of isolation, regardless of whether someone tests positive for the virus.
Individuals are also asked to cease all long-distance nonessential travel within the state. Those leaving an area with a known case of the disease are expected to isolate and self-monitor when arriving at their destination.
Zink emphasized that young people are most likely to be carriers of the virus and are at the same time most likely to not show symptoms of the disease.
She also called on individuals to help their community by offering to be babysitters or care givers, call on the elderly, check on neighbors or send them cards or letters, and help volunteer.
Adam Crum, commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services put out a plea to individuals to give blood. He said shortages are beginning to appear in Alaska and throughout the country.
In Anchorage, individuals can donate at the Blood Bank of Alaska and should call (907) 222-5600 or 222-5630. In Fairbanks donations can be made at the Blood Bank of Alaska by calling (907) 456-5645. All locations are open Monday through Saturday.
Restrictions in Fairbanks and Ketchikan
Two mandates were also issued Friday for the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. The mandates went into effect at 8 a.m. this morning (March 21, 2020.)
- All businesses, congregations, or gatherings in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough where individuals are within six feet of each other must stop all operations. This includes:
- Hair salons
- Day spas and esthetics locations
- Nail salons
- Barber shops
- Tattoo shops
- Body piercing locations
- Massage therapy locations
- Tanning facilities
- Additionally, no gatherings of more than 10 people may take place, and if a gathering does take place people must be six feet apart from each other.
- This Mandate prohibits the delivery of services in any of the above business locations by individuals holding licenses issued by the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers, Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and Board of Massage Therapists.
- This Mandate prohibits operations for rolfing, reiki, acupuncture, acupressure, and similar services.
- This Mandate prohibits licensed massage therapist services spas. ·
- This Mandate prohibits business operations to continue at tanning facilities.
- The prohibitions in this Mandate apply to services that may be delivered in the customer's home or in the home of the licensee.
The order remains in full force and effect until the Governor rescinds or modifies the order.
The mandate does not prevent the provision of urgent, and emergent health care needs, nor health care facilities; however, health care facilities must do risk assessment screening prior to entering the facility.
To give public and private schools some predictability the state has ordered all public and private schools to remain closed to students through May 1. The mandate says students will receive instruction through distance delivery methods and all after school activities will be suspended until the closure is lifted.
The Delta Greely School District is expect to release information on distance learning in the upcoming days.
The state will continue to enforce existing restrictions on visits to most state facilities and offices, the closing of restaurants and bars, and limitations on elective medical or dental procedures. Those restrictions set to expire and will be reviewed as necessary.
Likelihood of Other Restrictions
Governor Dunleavy said the state is reviewing other restrictions such as those in place in other states and will be considered if additional spread of the virus occurs.
Dunleavy also released information on his economic plan for the state earlier in the day. More information on the plan is expected in upcoming days.
Anyone with clinical or nonclinical questions about Coronavirus or COVID-19 can contact the Department of Health and Social Services by dialing 211 or calling (800) 478-2221. If you believe you have the disease, please contact your health care provider before traveling to a facility. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911.