ANCHORAGE — Gov. Mike Dunleavy held a press conference on Wednesday to address the COVID-19 cases in Alaska that are increasing over the last several days.
On Wednesday, 18 new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Alaska with five of those coming from the Mat-Su Valley. The governor was joined by Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink and Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum, who detailed the guidelines for the changes to Health Mandate 10 requiring travelers entering Alaska to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We’re still going to see an increase in cases but if we work together it won’t be that unmanageable spike that a lot of folks have predicted,” said Dunleavy. “As we mentioned our caseload will go up because we’re engaged in more activity. There’s more mixing of people and our caseload is going up.”
Of the five new cases in the Mat-Su, three were located in Wasilla with one each in Big Lake and Palmer. A total of 5,400 Mat-Su Valley residents have been tested for COVID-19 accounting for 5.07% of the population. In total, Alaska has had 505 cases of COVID-19 with 373 of those who have tested positive that are listed as recovered. No new deaths or hospitalizations were announced and .9 percent of the 58,182 people tested have tested positive.
“When we mix, when we deal with going in and out of groups of people, we increase our risks of spreading the virus or getting the virus,” said Dunleavy. “We’re going to see how high our case count grows and whether that constitutes a spike or just growth that’s going to be manageable.”
Crum detailed the changes to Health Mandate 10, outlining how incoming travelers at Alaska’s five major airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan could expect to be met by greeters in bright orange vests. Incoming travelers will have three options to avoid a 14-day quarantine. Those who have received negative results from a PCR test within 72 hours of departure that can provide proof of the negative results upon entering Alaska may travel freely. People who are tested within five days of departure can take a second test at the airport upon arrival in Alaska or Alaskans traveling out of state for less than five days can be tested at the airport or isolate themselves. Crum said that vouchers would be provided at the airport testing sites for a second test to be taken within two weeks of arrival.
“We are making sure that we are helping individuals as we do this this is how we can protect Alaskans from the virus coming into the state making sure people are intentional about their trips to Alaska, but still giving them room to make this happen,” said Crum. “We’re trying to make sure that everyone sees this in advance.”
Crum said that passengers getting off airplanes can expect to be met by greeters, screeners and testers and that many airports around the state are hiring locally for these positions. Airlines providing flights in Alaska have been contacted by state health officials to display Alaska’s health mandates to prospective airplane passengers and many airlines require passengers to wear masks. Airports in Wrangell, Gustavus and Petersburg will also have testing along ‘milk run’ flights in southeast Alaska. On Wednesday, the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage both reported six new cases of COVID-19.
“We’re seeing most of these clustered in the Mat-Su, Anchorage and Kenai area,” said Zink. “There’s kind of four major factors that can cause a significant acceleration in COVID and one of them is travel.”
Dunleavy said that the changes to Health Mandate 10 would be reviewed daily, but expected to look at the 14-day quarantine in two week periods.