Gov. Mike Dunleavy

ANCHORAGE — Gov. Mike Dunleavy held a press conference on Monday to allow his commissioners to detail the additional Federal Emergency Management Agency relief funding headed to Alaskans. On Monday, 71 new resident cases of COVID-19 were announced in Alaska, with seven new cases in the Mat-Su.

“It was great to see the state as a whole move into the orange alert level out of the red alert level over this past weekend and seeing some of those cases coming down,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink.

In total, Alaska has 4,810 resident cases of COVID-19 and 818 nonresident cases. There were six new hospitalizations reported Monday and there have been 202 cumulative hospitalizations with 40 currently hospitalized and eight requiring ventilators. Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, 32 people have died in Alaska as a result of infection. Alaska maintains a 1.64 percent positivity rate for the 330,503 tests that have been conducted thus far.

In the Mat-Su, five of the seven new cases came from Wasilla with one in Sutton and one out of Willow. Currently, 312 cases are listed as active out of the 456 total reported cases in the Mat-Su. Nonresidents have accounted for 17 cases and 21,055 tests have been conducted. Zink noted Anchorage, Juneau and the Northwest region as currently under high risk, with the Mat-Su, Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula among the regions in the orange category. Much of the brief press conference on Monday was spent discussing economic impacts of the pandemic. Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter announced that $19 million in FEMA relief funding would be headed for Alaska.

“Our total ask was approved and so I look forward to working with my team and FEMA to ensure that Alaskans receive the support that they need,” said Ledbetter.

Commissioner of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Julie Anderson updated the small business CARES relief funds through AIDEA. Anderson reported that 4,163 applications had been received for a total request of $197.2 million. With Dunleavy’s RPL request to loosen restrictions sent to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, changes could be implemented as soon as August 31.

“One of the things we’re very concerned about is we need to get these funds out into the hands of small businesses by Nov. 15,” said Anderson. “If we need to make some tweaks as we move into the fall we will be able to do that.”

The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday. With the reopening of schools to in-person instruction last week, Dunleavy briefly commented on Alaskan education.

“We certainly believe that teachers are absolutely critical for the purpose of making sure that education is happening,” said Dunleavy. “We want to make sure that schools can function, that schools are educating kids.”

When asked about the future possibility of ending the coronavirus disaster declaration in Alaska, Dunleavy pointed to a seemingly imminent vaccine for COVID-19 that would alter mitigation strategies worldwide.

“Certainly a proven vaccine that is going to be marketed would be an absolute game changer in how to deal with this virus and how to mitigate it,” said Dunleavy. “We’re optimistic that they’re on the verge of declaring a vaccine that’s actually going to work, that’s gone through the trials that can be mass produced.”

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