Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses the public during a virtual town hall on Sept. 15, 2020 in Alaska. (Photo courtesy Austin McDaniel, Office of the Governor)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses the public during a virtual town hall on Sept. 15, 2020 in Alaska. (Photo courtesy Austin McDaniel, Office of the Governor)

State stocks up on supplies to fight coronavirus

Governor says decision on whether emergency declaration will expire has not been made

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration announced a host of new equipment purchases on Wednesday that are meant to help slow the rate of COVID-19’s spread around the state, as hospital capacity becomes a concern.

Dunleavy held a press conference Wednesday evening with state officials, including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink and Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum. Earlier in the day, Dunleavy’s office announced several new purchases of testing and personal protective equipment, as well as plans to bolster state health care and pandemic response infrastructure.

The state reported 353 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as well as one new death — a woman from the northern Kenai Peninsula in her 80s. Hospitalizations are the highest they’ve been in Alaska since the start of the pandemic, but Dunleavy said during the press conference that the rate of hospitalizations is not rising at the same rate as new cases.

On Wednesday, 100 out of 130 adult ICU beds statewide were taken, as were over half of adult non-ICU inpatient beds. To help provide relief to the state’s health care sector, and to tackle emerging clusters of the virus in rural Alaska, the state is planning to open a new commercial testing lab, prepare more alternate care sites around the state and expand contact-tracing staff. The state is also purchasing 3.5 million pairs of gloves for hospitals and clinics and 50 new rapid test machines to be used on cluster response.

Dunleavy said an order Alaska had made from Abbott Laboratories has been moved up, and the state will soon be getting 189 additional rapid test machines that it had ordered along with 186,000 tests.

The state also plans to set up a new testing site in Nome, expand testing in schools and has launched a website to help connect workers qualified in the health care field with licenses facilities and service providers. This is a partnership between DHSS’ Senior and Disabilities Services Division and the nonprofit organization ADvancing States.

Crum said this program can help long-term service providers stay staffed in the event that their employees have to take time off to quarantine.

“We still need to provide care to some of these patients,” Crum said. “So this is connecting to make sure that health care professionals in Alaska can go to work, can continue that process, this level of care is provided.”

No other mitigation measures were announced Wednesday beyond the equipment purchases and plans for increased infrastructure. Dunleavy encouraged Alaskans to continue doing their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but again reiterated that he feels health mandates, such as a requirement to wear masks, should be done at the local level. Some municipalities in the state have the legal ability to enact those health powers, while others don’t.

Asked at what point the administration would consider reinstating previous social restrictions, such as limits on gathering size or movement around the state, if health care capacity gets too stressed, Dunleavy said “nothing’s been taken off the table.”

Dunleavy said his administration will continue to watch metrics such as hospitalization rates, length of hospital stays, and inpatient and ICU bed capacity.

“It’s math,” he said. “(If) the numbers keep increasing, that math can translate into more beds being occupied, and that’s what we’re going to keep an eye on,” he said. “And if it looks like it’s getting ahead of us, this virus, then we’ll have a discussion as to what mitigating events, procedures, etc. that we have to take to slow this down. So nothing’s off the table.”

The state’s disaster emergency declaration is set to expire on Nov. 15. The governor’s declaration can only stay in effect for 30 days unless extended by the Legislature, as happened in March.

During the press conference, Dunleavy reiterated the sentiment shared by his office earlier this week that it has not yet been decided whether the declaration will be allowed to expire. He said discussions are currently taking place about what exactly Alaska needs to combat the virus moving forward, and whether that includes the provisions provided by the emergency declaration.

“For the most part, we believe that the tools we have available to us, and we still have available to us, are going to help up manage the virus,” Dunleavy said.

He said more announcements regarding the fate of the emergency declaration with happen next week.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

More in News

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.

Kenai Police Department Chief David Ross explains the purpose of a grant to be used for new radios during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Police to update radios using grant money

The department received almost $260,000 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Democratic Party candidate for governor Les Gara attends a Zoom meeting with Homer residents on Nov. 18, 2021, from his Anchorage, Alaska, home. (Screen capture)
Gara makes election pitch to Homer

Democratic Party candidate for governor Gara visits virtually.

A man missing for more than 40 years was identified by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation as a Chugiak resident who was last seen in 1979. The man’s body was discovered on an island near Anchorage in 1989. (Courtesy photo/Alaska Department of Public Safety)
Body found in 1980s ID’d through DNA analysis

The body, found in 1989, had been unidentified until now.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID continues decline; 1 new death

The state had an estimated rolling average of 253.3 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham addresses state and Alaska Native leaders Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. Dillingham will travel to Toksook Bay, on an island just off Alaska’s western coast, for the first count on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Census reports minimal state population growth

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s population grew by about 3,400 people between the 2010 and 2020 census.

The old Homer intermediate school building, showing the Homer Boys & Girls Club and gym on the south side of the building at the corner of the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue.
The old Homer intermediate school building on the corner of the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue, as seen in October 2010. It’s now known as the Homer Educational and Recreational Complex, or HERC. (Homer News file photo)
Homer awards contract to study use of rec complex site

The goal is to help the city understand the maximum use of that property.

Genna Stormer gives Santa a hug during Christmas Comes to Nikiski at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center on Dec. 14, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
December brings the holiday cheer

Groups across the peninsula get into the spirit of the season with public events.

Most Read