ANCHORAGE — As Alaskans move to become even more independent by staying isolated in their homes, a total of 36 people in Alaska have tested positive for COVID 19, as of Monday night.
Of those 36 cases, four people who tested positive have been listed as cases of community spread, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink announced at a press conference with Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum. The governor thanked health care professionals and first responders as he issued two health mandates to bring Alaska together by keeping Alaskans apart.
“We do know that the fate of all Alaskans is really in our hands at this time and these mandates that came in are essentially Alaska’s version of shelter in place or stay at home, except the outdoors are lovely and they’re not dangerous for you, so you can be outside safely distanced from others but stay away from other people as much as you possibly can,” said Zink.
Following Dunleavy’s disaster declaration two weeks ago, Health Mandate nine takes effect on March 24 at 5 p.m. and limits close contacts of people outside of the family unit to no further than six feet and prohibits gatherings of more than ten people. If gatherings take place, people must maintain a social distance of 6 feet apart. Health Mandate nine will remain in effect until the Governor lifts or amends his order.
“The main point of this one is to make sure you do social distancing. Limit the size of your gatherings to no more than 10 people and maintain your six feet away,” said Crum. “If we all really try and heed and comply with these, then we’re actually going to make a much shorter turnaround as far as when Alaska comes out on the other side of this pandemic.”
Businesses that are part of critical infrastructure have until 3 p.m. on March 24 to submit their plan for protocols to prevent the spread of COVID 19 and not endanger the lives of the communities in which they work. “This is really disruptive but for the next few weeks if we can give a little, we believe we’re going to get a lot and that’s what we’re asking Alaskans to do,” said Dunleavy.
Health Mandate 10, also issued Monday, takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 25 and establishes that anyone traveling into Alaska must maintain a self-quarantine of 14 days or for the duration of their stay in Alaska. While travelers across the Canadian border into Alaska on the roads will not be checked for the location of their quarantine, Crum said that travelers entering the airport to return to Alaska are expected to report the location of where they will self isolate for the next two weeks.
“The more we act early and aggressively now, the more we slow it down later and the more we can kind of slowly open things back up without having huge health consequences. The spread of his disease and the rate of it, it really grows at an exponential force,” said Zink.
After Crum explained the new health mandates for social distance and self quarantine upon arrival, Zink explained her feelings when she heard of the coronavirus’ origination and spread to the United States and eventually Alaska.
“I went outside and got a call that we had really our first community case here in Alaska and again it felt like a sucker punch,” said Zink.
After not hosting a press conference to update the public on the spread of COVID 19 in Alaska over the weekend, Zink detailed the case investigations that had already been completed. While 10 new cases were discovered on Sunday, only four people tested positive on Monday. On Sunday, four new cases were discovered in Anchorage, one in Juneau and two in the Mat-Su Valley. Zink announced that four of those cases were not attributed to travel, close contact, or still under investigation and had been determined to be community spread infections.
“We continue to see increasing testing across the state. We’re working really hard to keep in front of that,” said Zink. “We really owe it to all Alaskans to protect their health and well being.”
Of the 14 additional positive tests that have been announced since Saturday, three of those are cases in people over 60. Over 1,000 people in Alaska have been tested for COVID 19.
“I think we have what it takes to overcome this virus,” said Dunleavy.