As Alaska’s COVID-19 numbers continue to climb, Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a new mandate Wednesday evening. Masks must be worn inside state buildings and facilities, as of Thursday morning, if people cannot properly socially distance.

“If you can’t distance six feet or more, you should be wearing a face mask,” Dunleavy said during a press conference Wednesday in Anchorage. “We want you to wear a face mask.”

The announcement comes on a day in which the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 92 additional COVID-19 positive cases.

“Alaska is seeing somewhat of a surge,” Dunleavy said. “Our case numbers are starting to go up.”

Wednesday’s press conference also included Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum, Alaska Chief of Epidemiology Dr. Joe McLaughlin, DHSS research analyst Anna Frick, DHSS nurse consultant Kim Spink, CHARR CEO Sarah Oates, Alaska Hospitality Retailers Executive Director Silvia Villamides and Alaska Chamber of Commerce CEO Kati Capozzi.

Alaska’s call to order the use of face coverings within state buildings follows the Municipality of Anchorage’s mask mandate issued in late June. Since, other Alaska cities, such as Juneau, have issued a similar mask mandate. Within the last week, national retail chains with stores in Southcentral Alaska, including Kroger, Walmart, Target and Safeway have also started requiring customers to wear masks inside their business.

During the press conference, McLaughlin, Frick and Spink shared information about the different types of masks and face coverings, and scenarios in which state officials recommend the use of masks and face coverings. McLaughlin said a key for Alaska is urging members of a certain age group to wear masks in public.

“Younger adults are really driving the epidemic,” McLaughlin said. “One of the things we are trying to do is get younger adults to wear face coverings.”

Zink said Alaska’s coronavirus numbers are following a trend similar to the Lower 48.

“That 20s to 30s range,” Zink said of the age group. “That is our biggest group of people that we’re seeing contracting COVID.”

Zink said Alaskans are acquiring the virus in a wide range of social gatherings.

“We’ve seen a whole variety of places people are attracting COVID,” Zink said.

Zink said she urges Alaska residents to narrow their social bubble.

“With the current rate, we will continue to see an increased climb if we don’t do more with physical distancing, face coverings,” Zink said.

With the 92 additional resident cases reported, Alaska had a total of 2,132 positive cases as of Wednesday night. With more than 185,000 total tests, Zink said Alaska had a 3.01 percent positive rate.

The Mat-Su Borough passes the 200-mark Wednesday, and now has 205 total cases. There were eight new cases reported in the borough Wednesday, six in Wasilla and two in Palmer. Wasilla had 118 total cases as of Wednesday, while Palmer had 61.

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