Mike Dunleavy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced a change to the state’s interstate travel mandate during a press conference Tuesday evening in Anchorage.

As of Aug. 11, non-residents traveling to Alaska must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours prior to arrival in the 49th state.

“If you come to Alaska, you should have a negative (test),” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy also said COVID-19 testing for non-residents will not be available at Alaska airports as of Aug. 11. Residents can still be tested when arriving at the airport.

Dunleavy said state officials wanted to make the announcement two weeks ahead of the change to allow travelers time to adjust their plans. He said the state is also taking the time to prepare guidelines for the updated mandate, such as enforcement.

“We are going to work through the enforcement issues,” Dunleavy said.

The travel mandate will be updated, in part, to help protect Alaska’s testing supplies, Dunleavy said.

“We are starting to see a tightening of some of our protective equipment. We’re starting to see a tightening of some of our testing equipment,” Dunleavy said. “We still have the supplies, but as we see the case numbers going up, we want to redirect those supplies. We want to test more Alaskans. We’re really redeploying those resources to make sure we are testing as much as we can on our own residents.”

The press conference came on a day in which the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 137 new COVID-19 cases in the state, 110 residents and 27 nonresidents. DHSS also reported the state’s 22nd coronavirus-related death, The deceased was a Fairbanks man in his 40s, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr, Anne Zink said in the press conference Tuesday.

It’s the second time and three days that Alaska hit triple digits for positive corona virus cases. A total of 186 positive tests were announced Sunday.

“What we’re seeing now is a rise on the Railbelt,” Dunleavy said, referring to a stretch of the state that spans the road system from the Kenai Peninsula to Fairbanks.

As of Wednesday, there were 1,534 total cases in Anchorage, 380 in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, 282 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough and 287 in the Mat-Su Borough.

Zink said the total Alaska resident cases grew 34 percent within the last week, with the majority of new cases among Alaskans ages 20 to 19. Cases among Alaskans in their 20s and 30s are rising sharply. According to state statistics, nearly 25 percent of Alaska’s total positive cases are in the 20-29 age group.

Zink said the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations is also on the rise. There are 34 patients hospitalized in Alaska with COVID-19 as of Wednesday night, and another 11 hospitalized are under investigation.

Dunleavy again urged Alaska residents to take their own precautions to help lower the transmission rate in the state.

“If we remind each other to keep a distance, we remind each other to put a mask on, the distance and the mask is going to level off these cases and I think we’ll see a downward trend,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy said an order such as a statewide mask mandate will not be made at this time. He said there are too many communities in the state that have not been highly impacted by the virus to issue an order for the use of masks or face coverings statewide. Instead, Dunleavy called for a more “surgical” approach. Dunleavy said those decisions can be made at the municipal level.

Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at editor@frontiersman.com.

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