WASILLA — The Mat-Su Valley had made it 29 days without a resident testing positive for COVID-19 when a positive test was announced from Willow on May 17.
The Mat-Su now has 22 total cases and only three people actively have symptoms of COVID-19 according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services data hub. Alaska has the lowest number of COVID-19 cases of any state in the United States and the Mat-Su Valley has sustained low positive test numbers while conducting a high number of tests.
“We have not had one single inpatient with COVID,” said Mat-Su Regional Medical Center marketing director Alan Craft.
MSRMC began planning for the arrival of the coronavirus early in 2020 and continue to operate with safety precautions being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the hospital.
“We have the capacity to care for our community. We’ve been preparing for this,” said Craft.
The Mat-Su’s 22 total cases have been spread out over a large amount of time and space in the vast Valley. Wasilla has had 12 cases, with five cases of community spread, five cases of secondary spread and two travel related cases. Palmer has had nine cases, also with five attributed to community spread, one secondary related case and three travel related case. The DHSS information still lists the positive test from Willow on Sunday as under investigation.
A total of 4,332 Valley residents accounting for 4.07 percent of the Mat-Su Borough’s population have been tested for COVID-19. While Health Mandates have been lifted and Alaska is fully opening up for business ahead of most other areas of the country, Craft said that residents are changing the way they receive health care and wants to reassure residents that every precaution has been taken and procedures that have been in place for months at MSRMC are still being followed.
Craft said that Dr. Tom Quimby who chairs the COVID task force has put in extra hours to make sure the hospital staff are prepared. Early on in March, the MSRMC ambulance bay was refurbished to provide additional negative pressure rooms in the event that patients with COVID-19 did have to be treated at MSRMC, which has yet to happen. Of the information provided on the DHSS data hub that has been closely watched over the last two months of the global pandemic as it has reached Alaska, ventilators and intensive care unit bed counts have been a topic of concern. While the DHSS data hub shows that MSRMC has only one available ICU bed as of Friday, Craft says that the hospital has adequate capacity and staff prepared to treat patients. Craft believes that a hesitance to seek minor health care services and preventative treatment is resulting in a more intense need for care when patients finally arrive at the hospital.
“People are delaying care that they should not be delaying,” said Craft. “That’s our concern because they are not getting care in a timely fashion, simply because they are tentative.”
Craft said that elective procedures have begun reoccurring since the Health Mandates preventing non emergent procedures have been lifted and praised not only the work of Quimby, but MSRMC’s own Dr. Anne Zink who now serves as Chief Medical Officer for the state and has lead Alaska’s to the lowest number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States.