Nearly three months after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Alaska, the state’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said Wednesday that the 190 active cases of people in Alaska suffering from symptoms of COVID-19 mark a new high for the state. Twenty more positive cases were announced earlier in the day bringing the state’s cumulative total to 593.
“As of today we are the eighth most tested state in the country and continue to try and keep that up to be able to identify cases early. It’s very important that if you have even mild symptoms you get identified and tested very early,” said Zink.
While the percent positive has remained steady at 0.9 percent for more than a week, one more death occurred due to COVID-19 bringing the state’s total to 11 and one more person was hospitalized. Of the 593 total cases, 392 of those individuals have recovered from symptoms and 67,720 tests have been administered. In the Mat-Su, another positive test was announced on Wednesday bringing the cumulative total for the Mat-Su up to 38 cases. A total of 6,022 Mat-Su residents have been tested for COVID-19, accounting for 5.66 percent of the population.
“Open doesn’t mean over,” said Zink. “The more that we can do together the stronger we’re off preventing further outbreaks.”
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation Executive Director Bryan Butcher provided an update on the $10 million in CARES act funding set aside for relief for mortgage and rent payments. The application process through AHFC begins on June 15 and continues until June 26. Those who apply will randomly be assigned numbers and AHFC staff will begin to contact those who have applied based on their number, as not to provide an unfair advantage to any region.
“This program was created to help avoid those evictions and foreclosures,” said Butcher.
Each household may be granted up to $1,200 and if qualified, the funds would be paid out directly to landlords beginning in late July.
Commissioner of the Department of Transportation John MacKinnon provided an update on the outbreak on the Tustemena and airport testing. A crew member on the Tustemena tested positive in Dutch Harbor and all crew members and passengers were tested. Arriving in Homer on Monday, all crew members were tested and remaining on the ferry are three crew members who tested positive and 10 crew members to maintain the ship. After a quarantine period, the entire vessel will be sanitized and sit for three days before departing from Homer to Kodiak on June 27.
“I’m completely amazed at how well everyone worked together to deal with this thing,” said MacKinnon.
MacKinnon also noted that airline traffic into Alaska is only 20 percent of what it would be on a normal year with Anchorage receiving 1,800 passengers per day and Fairbanks receiving 700. An amendment to Health Mandate 10 allows for those traveling into Alaska to be provided testing and testing vouchers at the airport if they have not had a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their departure.
“We’re all trying to do the best to make sure that folks when they come into Alaska, that they’re not bringing the virus with them,” said Dunleavy.
Following the update on COVID-19, Dunleavy chose to address the worldwide wave of protests in the wake of the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“That injustice ignited a continual discussion about how this country could become better at fulfilling its dream of being a country for everybody,” said Dunleavy. “I want to thank each and every Alaskan. I want to thank those young people that put these protests together and I’m sincere when I say this because I want to thank them because protesting and voicing your opinion especially, when you see an injustice is America. It’s Alaskan, it’s American too and there aren’t going to be any changes for the good unless we have that dialogue.”
Dunleavy thanked Alaskans who have chosen to protest in the last two weeks for remaining peaceful and exercising their first amendment rights without violence. Dunleavy also said that he will not consider defunding the police in Alaska.
“As I mentioned on the protest, as I mentioned on the first amendment rights, as I mentioned on the gut wrenching video and what happened to Mr. Floyd, I think we all agree we can do a lot better and we need to do a lot better and we need to work at doing a lot better and not just hope something better happens,” said Dunleavy. “I don’t support folks that hurt others, that have disregard for others but I do believe that this is an opportunity for all of us again to have that dialogue so that what’s occurred here makes a positive difference for all of us.”