Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a press conference in Anchorage on Monday, March 23, 2020. (Courtesy photo | Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a press conference in Anchorage on Monday, March 23, 2020. (Courtesy photo | Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Alaska reports 1st COVID-19 death

The Alaskan who died, described as a “high-risk older individual,” was in Washington state.

The first Alaskan has died from COVID-19 and one Alaskan has been hospitalized, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Dr. Anne Zink announced at their daily press conference Tuesday. The state now has 42 confirmed cases, with two new cases in Ketchikan, two new cases in Fairbanks and one new case in Juneau.

The Alaskan who died, described as a “high-risk older individual,” was in Washington state. Zink said they had not traveled to Alaska recently and believe the person contracted COVID-19 in Washington. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control rules dictate that resident deaths are counted with their home state.

To address personal protective equipment and medical supply shortages, Dunleavy said Alaska will start manufacturing its own supplies. He said, for example, distilleries are able to make hand sanitizer.

Dunleavy and Zink urged the public to stay at home and away from others over the next two weeks.

“I just cannot emphasize enough how important it is to stay away from each other,” Zink said. “Being close to each other is inherently dangerous right now. Please, just for two weeks stop what you’re doing and stay away from each other … It’s going to take you standing with us or we are going to be overwhelmed by this virus.”

Dunleavy said the state has not issued a shelter in place order seen in other states, because they want Alaskans to be able to go outside and stay active away from others. Dunleavy said he’s been watching how other states’ shelter in place orders have been issued and is finding that people “aren’t complying.”

“We want people to get outside and have the opportunity to go outdoors and stay away from people,” Dunleavy said. “… We don’t think (the strict shelter in place orders in other states are) necessarily good and it doesn’t accomplish what we want to accomplish. This is not a political maneuver. We think this is the best way to go for Alaska at this point.”

As of Tuesday night, there have been four confirmed cases on the Kenai Peninsula, with two in Sterling, one in Seward and one in Soldotna. Across the state, there have been 17 confirmed cases in Anchorage, nine confirmed cases in Fairbanks, two confirmed cases in Palmer, two confirmed cases in Juneau and eight confirmed cases in Ketchikan.

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