Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink speaks at a press conference on Friday, March 20, 2020

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink speaks at a press conference on Friday, March 20, 2020

1 new case in Sterling as governor expands mandates

4 additional cases announced statewide

A person from Sterling has tested positive for COVID-19, a Monday night press release from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management said.

There are now four confirmed cases of the new coronavirus on the Kenai Peninsula, with the first announced March 10 in Seward, and two announced Saturday, one in Soldotna and one in Sterling. In the latest case, it is unknown if the person contracted the disease after traveling or within the community.

The borough’s press release says health officials will continue to monitor the patient’s condition to ensure continued self-isolation at home. Public health officials will also initiate a contact investigation and reach out to any person who may have come into contact with the individual, the borough’s release said.

Two new health mandates and four new confirmed cases of COVID-19, all in Anchorage and travel-related, were announced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a Monday press conference, bringing the state’s positive case total to 37. The four new cases announced by the governor do not include the newly confirmed case in Sterling, which was announced by the borough later Monday night.

One of the new health mandates, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, closes personal care businesses and shuts down all large gatherings. The purpose of the mandate is to limit all close contacts of people and ensure they are farther than 6 feet from each other, the mandate said.

All businesses, congregations or gatherings where individuals are within 6 feet of each other must stop all operations, the mandate said. Local hair salons, day spas and esthetics locations, nail salons, barber shops, tattoo shops, body piercing locations, massage therapy locations and tanning facilities are prohibited from operating under the mandate. Rolfing, reiki, acupuncture, acupressure and similar services are also prohibited under the mandate. The mandate is in effect until “the governor rescinds or modifies the order.”

The other mandate requires that all people arriving in Alaska, whether a resident, worker or visitor, to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for illness. The mandate goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25 and will be reevaluated April 21. Arriving residents and workers will go directly from the airport to their home or rented lodging. People entering Alaska will not be allowed to leave their quarantine except for medical reasons. Residents returning home will be asked to work from home, unless they support “critical infrastructure.”

Businesses who need returning Alaskans to come into work will be required to submit a plan or protocol for maintaining “critical infrastructure” to the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development by 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 24. The plan must outline how the employer will avoid the spread of COVID-19 and not “endanger the lives of the communities” where they operate.

Failure to follow the mandate is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 or imprisonment of up to a year, or both, according to the mandate.

While some boroughs and cities in Alaska have adopted “hunker down” orders, the Kenai Peninsula Borough doesn’t have the authority to issue such mandates, Dan Nelson, emergency manager for the borough, said in the Monday night press release from the borough’s emergency management office.

Nelson encouraged residents to limit their movements and practice physical distancing and practice good hygiene.

“Even if you are mildly sick, stay home,” Mayor Charlie Pierce said in the release. “Call your doctor before you go to see your healthcare provider. “Do the right thing, and shelter in place so that we can get through this challenging time together.”

On Sunday, the state announced 10 positive cases, seven from Anchorage, two in the Matanuska Susitna Valley and one from Juneau.

As of Monday night, according to numbers provided by the state and borough, there are 17 cases in Anchorage, seven in Fairbanks, six in Ketchikan, two in the Mat-Su Borough, one in Seward, two in Sterling, one in Soldotna and one in Juneau.

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