Gov. Mike Dunleavy at an Anchorage news conference on Sept. 15 (Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy at an Anchorage news conference on Sept. 15 (Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Dunleavy: Virus in ‘acceleration phase’

The state health department reported about 880 new confirmed cases over the weekend

By Becky Bohrer

Associated Press

JUNEAU — The state’s chief medical officer is urging Alaska residents to avoid all activities with people outside their households, especially indoor activities, citing a rapid increase in reported COVID-19 cases.

“If you must be around others – wear a mask and stay distanced at least 6 feet,” Dr. Anne Zink said on her Facebook page Sunday.

The state health department reported about 880 new confirmed cases over the weekend, including a new-daily high of 526 cases, which included six nonresidents, on Sunday. Nearly 350 additional cases were reported Monday.

The department over the weekend attributed the numbers to widespread community transmission, increased testing in many areas and public health staff entering backlogged case information. It may take “several days” before cases are entered into the system, the department said.

More than 13,300 resident cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic, with the state’s more populous regions as well as parts of rural Alaska, including the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, currently considered in high alert status. That means there is broad community transmission “with many undetected cases and frequent discrete outbreaks,” according to the health department.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp., which administers a health care system throughout dozens of rural communities, has urged residents there to avoid nonessential travel and gatherings, along with the now-standard advice of wearing a mask in public, maintaining distance from others and regularly washing hands.

The corporation, in a status report Friday, said that without an “immediate broad behavior change by the public, cases of this highly contagious virus will continue to climb.”

The Alaska Psychiatric Institute said Friday it would not admit new clients for 14 days after several patients were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state has entered an “acceleration phase,” but on his Facebook page said “this is not unexpected as Alaskans moved indoors with the changing seasons.” Alaska is known for its long, dark, cold winters. He cited as positives the state’s hospitalization and mortality rates and said the state is “doubling down” on efforts to ensure it has sufficient resources to respond to coronavirus cases.

Alaska is among the states that have reported the fewest COVID-19-related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Case Tracker. The state health department reports 68 such deaths.

There is no statewide mask mandate, though some communities, such as Juneau, require masks in certain indoor public spaces. The state will not mandate a vaccine once one becomes available, Dunleavy told reporters last week.

He said he’s changed his routine in response to COVID-19, including conducting most meetings online or by phone and wearing masks “often,” though he said there are times he won’t wear one, such as when he’s speaking to people.

“And I understand that that increases the risk, but I also understand that all of the other mitigation efforts that I’m doing is also contributing to lowering the risk,” he said, adding that he’s “ramping up my game” on a personal level.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin recently told reporters there are people who don’t want to participate in contract tracing.

“My nursing staff frequently reports getting hung up on by people that they’re trying to notify,” he said, adding that could be due to such things as COVID-19 “fatigue” — people being fed up with the virus — or job-related pressures.

Mandates and restrictions in places like Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, fueled a backlash from people who saw the actions as overreaching.

But Victoria Miller, a nurse practitioner who works in telemedicine in Anchorage, said she has no problem when she’s out in public asking someone who is not wearing a mask to wear one and has considered bringing masks with her to share.

“They just kind of roll their eyes and keep going,” she said of the typical response, adding she thinks it’s important to say something anyway.

More in News

The badge for the Kenai Police Department (Clarion file)
Walmart briefly evacuated after bomb threat

The investigation is ongoing.

Peninsula Clarion file
Merry voices to fill Kenai chamber

Historical society carolling event returns after hiatus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State officials urge vaccination as omicron spreads in US

Omicron was first identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 hunter dead, another missing after boat hits rough seas off Whittier

The pair were reportedly hunting on Wednesday on Esther Island in Prince William Sound.

Kenai City Council members James Baisden (left) and Deborah Sounart (right) listen as member Teea Winger (center) speaks in support of legislation opposing government COVID-19 mandates, during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, in Kenai.
Kenai council declares opposition to mask mandates

The statement does not change city code or supersede federal law.

Signage indicates that face masks are required for entry to the Soldotna Public Library on March 25, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The Soldotna City Council voted Wednesday to make mask-wearing optional in city facilities. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Masks recommended, not required in Soldotna city buildings

Council amends measure to make mask-wearing optional

Nick Begich III, seen here in this undated photo, is challenging Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives saying Alaska needs new energy in Washington D.C. (Courtesy photo / Alaskans for Nick Begich)
Nick Begich III touts fiscal conservatism in US House race

GOP candidate challenges Young’s record

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Fish and Game seeks comment on 2022 sport fish stocking plan

The Sport Fish Division plans to release approximately 7 million fish into the Alaska water systems over the next five years.

A map shows which parts of the Chugach National Forest are open to motorized winter recreation use for the 2021-2022 season. (Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
Parts of Chugach National Forest open to snowmachine use

The 2021-2022 winter motorized season will run through April 30.

Most Read