ANCHORAGE — Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a new health mandate at his Friday press conference with Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum and Education Commissioner Michael Johnson in response to the coronavirus outbreak that made its way to Alaska Thursday. As of Friday, Alaska still only has one confirmed case of COVID 19 and President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency.
“We are markedly concerned about the community to community transmission in the Lower 48, particularly Washington state. Part of the reason you see our state acting quite a bit ahead of other states is because of that close connection between Washington and trying to really flatten out that curve to get ahead of that curve. You know, the governor declared a disaster before we even had a case that didn’t happen in any other state. We’ve been moving in front of this as much as we possibly can. The goal is to keep the state up and running and healthy,” said Zink.
Dunleavy said that visitation would be suspended to Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, Alaska Youth Military Academy and Alaska Psychiatric Institute facilities. Visitation to the Pioneer homes will be limited to one visitor per day per resident who will have to undergo a robust health screening administered by Pioneer Home staff before entering. Visitors to Pioneer Homes will only be allowed in the room of their family member and will not be allowed in if they exhibit signs of a fever, cough, trouble breathing, or if they have been in contact with anyone under investigation for COVID 19 in the last 14 days.
“If there is a known case in the home then nobody would be allowed in. We’re following along with what we’ve seen for best practices from around the country and this is again, a proactive approach to protect this very vulnerable population in Alaska,” said Crum.
Pioneer Home visitors will be limited to the room of their relative and Crum said that if a community to community outbreak of COVID 19 were to occur within senior living facilities, visitation would likely be suspended indefinitely.
The Centers for Disease Control reports over 1,600 cases of coronavirus nationwide and 15,000 cases new of the coronavirus have been detected around the world.
As of March 13, DHSS reports that 144 samples have been tested in Alaska with only one positive.
“At this time we feel like everyone who was in contact with this individual is being cooperative, is being safely monitored as well as self quarantining at this time and we continue to work with them on a regular basis and we believe we have contacted every individual that had been in contact with this person,” said Zink. “Our epidemiology team which is dozens of people have been working to do all the contact isolation and to ensure that the public is safe in this process and they feel very confident about the plan that’s been in place since yesterday.”
Public K-12 schools will remain closed to students and after school programs until at least March 30, but staff will re-enter schools on March 16 to begin preparation for delivery of distance education.
“What the people of Alaska have to realize this is kind of like a slow moving storm coming our way. We know it’s coming. We’re preparing for it,” said Dunleavy. “What we’re trying to do once again is stay ahead of this storm, keep a little bit of distance as we can.
More information can be found on the stat’s coronavirus webpage at Coronavirus.alaska.gov.