Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Friday, May 1, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Friday, May 1, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)

Only new COVID-19 case is a Kenai woman

Updated state guidelines hash out face coverings

A Kenai woman has tested positive for COVID-19, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) announced on Saturday. That brings Alaska’s total case count to 378.

The new case is of a woman aged 40-49 and is the only new case reported for the time period of midnight to 11:59 p.m. May 8. According to information released on the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub, the cause of transmission remains under investigation.

There have been a total of 38 hospitalizations and 10 deaths, with no new hospitalizations or deaths reported on Friday. Recovered cases now total 318, including 13 new recovered cases recorded yesterday. A total of 26,449 tests have been conducted.

There have been no new deaths associated with the disease since the death of an Anchor Point man in his 80s on May 5.

The state’s 378 cases are spread out across 26 Alaska communities. As of Friday, there are 172 cases in Anchorage, six in Chugiak, 13 in Eagle River and three in Girdwood. In the Fairbanks North Star Borough, there are 64 cases in Fairbanks, 18 in North Pole and one in a community labeled “other.” In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, there are nine cases in Palmer and 12 in Wasilla. In the Southeast, Juneau has 27 cases, Ketchikan has 16, Petersburg has four, Craig has two and Sitka has one. Bethel, Kodiak, Nome, Delta Junction, Tok and the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area each have one case.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Anchor Point has had two cases, Homer has four, Kenai now has six, Soldotna has six, Seward has three and Sterling has three. Of these cases, one was an Anchor Point man in his 30s who died outside of Alaska, and one is a resident of Homer who was tested and isolated in Anchorage.

According to health mandate guidelines under the state’s second phase of reopening the economy, some businesses that had already reopened were allowed to expand their capacity to 50% starting Friday, while other previously closed entities like theaters, bars, museums and libraries are allowed to open at 25% capacity.

Asked by a reporter a Friday press conference whether the state would consider giving Alaska businesses new guidelines further in advance so that they could have more time to prepare for these changes, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said when the guidelines are released is dependent on the state’s metrics for monitoring the disease.

“We have to watch the numbers,” he said. “We can start to talk about the changes in the guidelines as we look at phase three, but again we have to be very sure that our numbers — as we’ve mentioned, number of cases, testing, ICU (Intensive Care Unit) bed count, overall counts, etc. — the metrics that we’re using that you’ll see on the website. We have to make sure that those are still holding.”

In that respect, Alaska’s medical capacity remains strong. According to the Coronavirus Response Hub, Alaska has 943 beds out of 1,900 available, 127 ICU beds available out of 195 available, and 324 ventilators out of 344 available. Only eight people are now hospitalized with COVID-19 or under investigation for having COVID-19.

When the Dunleavy administration posted the updated guidelines for myriad sectors of the economy and Alaska society on Thursday, they differed slightly when it came to the rules for face coverings for each sector. For most sectors of the economy, including retail, restaurants, bars, theaters, bingo halls, bowling alleys, gyms, libraries, museums and charter operations, the wearing of face coverings by employees and, in some cases, customers, is not mandated but “strongly encouraged.” But for three sectors (childcare/day camps, lodging and camping, and personal care services) the guidance documents of mandate 16 stipulated that staff “must” wear face coverings. This requirement is extended to customers frequenting personal care services such as salons or tattoo parlors.

Clinton Bennett, communications director for DHSS, said on Friday that the word “must” is being replaced with “strongly encouraged” in the guidelines for lodging and camping as they pertain to wearing face coverings.

He confirmed that the state is requiring staff members in the childcare/day camps sector and in personal care services to wear face coverings, as well as customers frequenting personal care service businesses.

“The personal services and childcare/camps require … both groups of providers to be in close proximity to patrons and to the children they are taking care of,” Bennett wrote in an email.

The state is requiring employees in those sectors to wear face coverings “to mitigate any possible exposure in these close contact environments,” he wrote.

For child care services, the mandate guidance document states:

“Cloth face coverings must be worn by all employees. Face coverings may be removed for a short time when necessary, such as when playing a musical instrument, but must be worn at all other times.”

For personal care services, the mandate guidance document states:

“Service providers/licensees must wear cloth face coverings, at a minimum. Face coverings must be worn before, during, and after service delivery.”

The guidance document for personal care services goes on to state:

“Customers must wear cloth face coverings and wash or sanitize hands upon arrival. Face coverings worn by customers may be removed for no more than five minutes at a time when necessary to perform services, but must be worn at all other times, including when entering and exiting the shop.”

Dunleavy also addressed face coverings during Friday’s press conference.

“If you see people with masks, they’re just trying to help you,” Dunleavy said. “Because the masks, from what we understand, help limit or slow down a projection, whether it’s a sneeze or a cough. So those folks are trying to help you.”

Dunleavy said people will likely see private businesses choosing to make face coverings a requirement for patrons.

“That’s their prerogative,” he said. “They are trying to help you.”

If Alaskans continue to help each other, Dunleavy said, the state can continue to be what he calls a model for getting through the pandemic.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com and Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

More in News

A seal pup rescued from the Kenai Beach is in the care of the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response Program in Seward, Alaska, on June 6, 2024. (Photo provided by Alaska SeaLife Center)
2nd seal pup rescued in Kenai, ASLC now caring for 4

A second newborn seal was rescued on Kenai Beach and admitted by… Continue reading

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, right, slices and serves fresh watermelon during North Peninsula Recreation Service Area’s Family Fun in the Midnight Sun at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center in Nikiski, Alaska, on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
North Peninsula Rec holds annual summer celebration

Attractions at this year’s event included carnival games, food trucks, field games, face painting, live music and demonstrations

The Blood Bank of Alaska’s new Kenai Peninsula center is seen in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Blood Bank relaunches permanent center on Kenai Peninsula

The new location joins others in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Wasilla

Nathan Nelson directs a kite flying dozens of feet up in the sky above Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska, during the Kenai Kite Festival on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Sun, wind, friends and kites

Kiters both experienced and novice gather for Kenai festival

Marchers walk from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park as part of Soldotna Pride in the Park on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Pride in the Park, other Pride celebrations set for Saturday

The event starts with the Two-Spirit March, which meets at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex at 11:30 a.m.

Signs direct visitors at Seward City Hall on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward OKs around $362,000 in purchases for Electric Department material

A pair of resolutions were included and passed within the consent agenda

Sockeye salmon are gathered together at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnets for commercial setnet fishers given emergency approval by CFEC

Up to three 12-hour periods of commercial dipnetting “may” be allowed each week from June 20 to July 31

Council member Dave Carey speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna explores its water and sewer expansion fees

The fees are a single charge to people who are newly or differently demanding or utilizing the services of the city’s water and sewer system

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Disaster determination received for 2023 east side setnet fishery

Disasters have been recognized for 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023

Most Read