PALMER — The Mat-Su Borough has not had anyone test positive for COVID-19 since April 18 and the Mat-Su Borough hosted their 10th COVID-19 press conference on Friday, which may be the last press conference unless the need for another arises.
Mat-Su Regional Medical Center COVID Task Force Chair Dr. Tom Quimby reiterated the importance of proper hand hygiene.
“This virus is just a tiny bundle of, just a microscopic bundle of protein and RNA and it doesn’t care about your politics, your nationality, your socioeconomic status or anything else, and I think it’s important to remember that we as Alaskans, we as Americans and we as members of the global human race are all in this together and I just ask that we continue to move forward and we work together,” said Quimby.
A total of 2,818 tests have been provided in the Mat-Su with 95 tests still pending. Quimby played the role of Dr. Anne Zink in providing the raw data of the cases in the Mat-Su. Of the 21 people who have tested positive, 18 of those have recovered and Alaska has had 32 consecutive days with single digit reported positives. Over the last 21 days, Alaska has had 15 days of two or fewer positive cases, and an average of 1.5 cases per day over the last 10 days. MSRMC has tested 1,134 people with 29 pending tests and just a single positive result.. A total of 47 staff members have been tested.
“We definitely have made significant progress and our efforts to combat this virus have been very successful in the state of Alaska thus far,” said Quimby.
Quimby said that Alaska has the lowest number of total positives of any state and is third lowest per capita while also holding the eighth highest spot per capita in tests administered. Hospital staff are still practicing 14-day self isolation if they return from a trip outside Alaska and all inpatients are being tested for COVID-19 regardless of the reason for admittance. MSRMC has also resumed non-elective emergent procedures.
“We believe that we’ve made very good progress and we believe that the hospital is a safe place for people to come if they need medical care,” said Quimby. “The more often someone washes their hands or sanitizes them the less likely their instance is of contracting the illness.”
Borough Director of Emergency Services Ken Barkley provided a similar update and added information about the five mobile test sites provided by public health nurses. Barkley said that 55 tests had been administered at the five outlying test sites and thanked the public health nurses and five Community Emergency Response Teams for providing 187 hours of assistance. Barkley did note that Borough EMS responded to 170 emergency service calls and 104 fires over the last week and noted that flood season is rapidly approaching.
“Talkeetna and Montana Creek are at the action stage. we do predict that the Montana Creek will go into minor flooding by later today that is again being monitored,” said Barkley.
Director of Recreation and Library Services Hugh Leslie got to provide the breaking news on Friday Morning. Leslie announced staggered starts for Borough facilities starting next week. On Monday, the Dorothy Swanda Jones Borough Building will be open by appointment only. The Jim Creek Campground is currently open as a first come first serve location and strict distancing mandates will be enforced. The Matanuska River Campground will open on May 22. Also on Monday, the Willow Library will open to up to 20 patrons at a time who will have up to one hour to check out books. The quarantine period for library materials has been reduced to 24 hours. The Sutton Library will be open on Tuesday. The Trapper Creek Library will open to up to eight patrons on Wednesday followed by the Talkeetna Library on Thursday and Big Lake Library on Friday.
“We want to make sure that we are safe and that also people get the opportunity to use the facilities,” said Leslie.
Patrons at all facilities can expect to answer if they have recently traveled out of state, if they have any family members who are sick and if they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 before entering any of the Borough facilities as a health screening.The Palmer and Wasilla Pools will open next week. Palmer will open on Friday with reservations available starting next Wednesday. The Wasilla Pool will open Wednesday with reservations available starting on Wednesday. Pool patrons must arrive at the pool in their swimsuit and no more than 30 patrons will be allowed in the water at one time. No swim lessons will be provided but lap swim and open swim will be available. In similar fashion, the Brett Memorial Ice Arena will open on Wednesday. Parking fees at Borough trailheads will resume being collected on June 1.
“It’s really a respect issue for others.I certainly wear my mask much more for others and protecting them as I do for myself,” said Borough Manager John Moosey.
Assemblywoman Stephanie Nowers provided an update on the economic impact survey that had been sent out. Of the 8,000 businesses in the Mat-Su Borough, 1,600 responded. Nowers said that over half of businesses reported that over half of their revenues had fallen off. Nowers said that one quarter of businesses that responded said they would be unable to last two weeks if current mandates remained in place.
“They’re just trying to figure out how they’re going to make ends meet so one thing I want to emphasize if there was ever a time to shop local now is the time,” said Nowers. “There’s a huge amount of uncertainty for a lot of our businesses especially those in seasonal businesses like the tourism business and some of the service sectors.”