Three new positive cases of COVID-19 were announced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a Thursday night press conference, bringing the state’s reported total number of positive cases to 12.
As of Thursday night, the state had conducted 513 tests for the new coronavirus. Of the 12 cases in Alaska, four are in Anchorage, one is on the Kenai Peninsula in Seward, two are in Ketchikan, and five are in Fairbanks.
One of the announced cases is in Ketchikan, where a recent traveler tested positive days ago. The state’s chief medical office, Dr. Anne Zink, said she doesn’t believe the Ketchikan case is a result of community spread, but is rather a case where the patient came in direct contact with someone who tested positive. Zink didn’t have any other details on the Ketchikan patient.
The two people who tested positive in Fairbanks — who were in the 20s and 30s age range — had not traveled in the past two weeks, Zink said.
However, the state is investigating if the patients were in close contact with the three other Fairbanks patients who previously tested positive. If the two newly tested patients were in close contact with the other COVID-19 positive residents, it would not be considered community transferred, Zink said. Community transfer and community spread are determined when a person contracts the disease with no trace of how the person contracted the disease.
“Either way it’s concerning the two people in Fairbanks had not traveled,” Zink said.
Zink said all Alaskans who have tested positive are self-isolating and have been working with health officials. No Alaskans have been hospitalized because of COVID-19.
Right now, the state is looking to build up the health care capacity. Dunleavy said the number of cases are growing, and issued two new health mandates that require Alaskans to cancel elective, non-life threatening procedures and surgeries in an effort to free up protective equipment for health care workers. Zink said the nation is also seeing a shortage of these supplies.
One of the two mandates issued Thursday night requires patients, providers, hospitals and surgical centers to postpone or cancel all non-urgent or elective procedures for three months. The other mandate requires elective oral health care procedures to be postponed for a period of one month.
Dunleavy also announced he’s been working with the state and federal government on how Alaska workers and business owners can manage to stay afloat during this “economic hardship.”
A letter and application from the state was sent to the Small Business Administration to access $2 million in disaster loans. Dunleavy said he would announce when the state heard more about the status of that application.
“This is no fault of the working Alaska,” Dunleavy said. “We want to make sure we assist them as soon as possible.”
Dunleavy took a moment to advocate for a full statutory Alaska Permanent Fund dividend check. He said Alaskans need “cash in their hands.”
“I can’t think of a time in the last 40 years where more people would need cash in their hands to pay for their bills,” Dunleavy said.
He said he is hoping the Legislature sees the benefits of paying a statutory check “sooner rather than later,” and said he is in talks of potentially breaking up payments into two checks paid out over time.
Across the nation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is reporting 10,442 positive cases, with 150 deaths.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in late 2019. Symptoms for the disease include fever, runny nose, cough and breathing trouble. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to the disease.