Thursday saw an influx of new COVID-19 news that started with a 10 a.m. emergency alert from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, was followed by a tweet from Rep. Don Young announcing he tested positive for COVID-19 and ended with the state’s daily email release detailing the number of new cases from the state.
The alert, which read “COVID-19 is escalating. See Gov. Dunleavys alert,” included a link to a video on the governor’s YouTube page that showed him addressing the state. In the video, Dunleavy says that Alaska’s COVID-19 status “is now in the red,” and the virus is spreading rapidly through the state’s communities.
In response to surging case numbers, Dunleavy said, he has issued a new 30-day disaster declaration, which takes effect on Monday, directed all state employees to work from home whenever possible, and is requiring masks and distancing for employees and visitors at state work sites.
Dunleavy said the next few weeks would be “critical” for the state and asked Alaskans to change their daily routines. He suggested that businesses send employees home if they can work remotely and that people opt for curbside pickup when ordering food or supplies.
“If we’re going to keep our hospitals running and businesses open, all Alaskans must return to the same mindset that worked so well this past spring,” Dunleavy said.
He urged people to stay 6 feet apart from those who are not in their same household and emphasized wearing masks “in any and every setting.”
“If we can buy time for our critical workers, if we can keep our systems operational, we can avoid being forced to take further action,” Dunleavy said. “But if we cannot reduce the spread of this virus, we reduce our future options for how to proceed.”
Dunleavy said that regardless of what people think of the virus, “the facts are the facts” and hospitalizations and sick health care workers are reaching “untenable” levels.
The governor closed by asking Alaskans to do everything possible to bend the case trend down.
Later in the day, U.S. Rep. Don Young took to Twitter to announce that he tested positive for COVID-19.
“I have tested positive for COVID-19,” Young tweeted. “I am feeling strong, following proper protocols, working from home in Alaska, and ask for privacy at this time. May God Bless Alaska.”
The Associated Press called the race for Alaska’s at-large Congressional District for Young on Wednesday. Young is the GOP’s longest-serving congressman and is the oldest congressman at 87.
That afternoon, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 478 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska, including 41 on the Kenai Peninsula. Affected peninsula communities include Kenai with 16 cases, Soldotna with 10 cases, Sterling with six cases, Seward with three cases, Anchor Point with two cases, “other North” with two cases, Homer with one case and Nikiski with one case.
This is the 20th day in a row that the state has reported a daily case increase of more than 300 and the seventh day in a row that the state has reported a daily case increase of more than 450.
Over the past week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough conducted 915 tests and saw a positivity rate of 11.58%.
Locally, South Peninsula Hospital has conducted 12,004 tests with 11,625 negative, 183 positive and 196 pending results. Central Peninsula Hospital has conducted 8,137 tests with 7,656 negative, 342 positive and 133 pending results. As of Thursday night, CPH was treating five patients who are COVID-19 positive with no patients on ventilators. There are currently four COVID-19-positive residents at Heritage Place.
The new cases bring Alaska’s statewide case total to 21,812, including 20,688 residents and 1,124 nonresidents. According to DHSS’ Coronavirus Response Hub, there are currently 14,555 active cases of COVID-19 in the state and 1,019 active cases in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
The statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the last two weeks, is high at 60.32. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s alert level is also high at 65.96.
High alert level is defined as more than 10 cases per 100,000 people, intermediate alert level is five to 10 cases per 100,000 people and low alert level is fewer than five cases per 100,000 people.
The state also reported seven new hospitalizations and no new deaths. To date, 520 Alaska residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 28 on the peninsula. Ninety six Alaskans have died, including five on the peninsula.
Currently, there are 120 people hospitalized in Alaska who are COVID-19 positive or who are considered persons under investigation for the disease. Eight of the patients are on ventilators.
Alaska’s daily positivity rate for the past seven days, during which 24,027 tests were conducted, is 9.66%. To date, 844,666 tests have been conducted in Alaska.
Statewide 6,512 Alaska residents have recovered from COVID-19, including 431 on the Kenai Peninsula.
In addition to the 41 cases reported on the peninsula Thursday, the state also reported 275 cases in Anchorage, 31 in Fairbanks, 24 in Wasilla, 17 in Bethel Census Area, 13 in Eagle River, 13 in Palmer, 10 in North Pole, nine in Bethel, eight in Juneau, six in Utqiagvik, three in Chugiak, three in Kodiak, three in Sitka, three in Willow, two in Bristol Bay Lake and Peninsula boroughs, two in Chevak, two in Delta Junction, two in Girdwood, two in Ketchikan, two in Northwest Arctic Borough and one each in Aleutians West Census Area, Dillingham, Haines, Kotzebue, Kusilvak Census Area and Nome Census Area.
One new nonresident case was reported with a location still under investigation.
Testing locations on the Kenai Peninsula
On the central peninsula, testing is available at Capstone Family Clinic, K-Beach Medical, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Central Peninsula Urgent Care, Peninsula Community Health Services, Urgent Care of Soldotna, the Kenai Public Health Center and Odyssey Family Practice. Call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400 for information on testing criteria for each location.
In Homer, testing is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the lower level of South Peninsula Hospital’s Specialty Clinic as well as through SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228.
In Ninilchik, NTC Community Clinic is providing testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The testing is only for those traveling, symptomatic, needing testing for medical procedures, or with a known exposure after seven days. Only 20 tests will be offered per day. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.
In Seward, testing is available at Providence Seward, Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and North Star Health Clinic.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.