Another Alaskan has died while infected with the novel coronavirus and four more have become ill enough to be admitted to the hospital, the state health department reported Tuesday.
The newly reported death is the 17th fatality involving a state resident confirmed to have COVID-19. It was not immediately clear where that person lived, whether they died in Alaska or when their death occurred, and questions to a health department spokesman were not immediately answered as of Tuesday afternoon. Of the previously reported deaths, at least four involved Alaskans who were out of state at the time.
The newly reported hospitalizations bring the state’s total to 78 since the start of the pandemic.
Alaska has been seeing a steady rise in active coronavirus cases since late May, when the state lifted most pandemic-related restrictions in response to low daily case counts and a boost in personal protective equipment and health care capacity. Several cases have been tied to bars and other entertainment establishments, and state and local health officials urged Alaskans to take proactive measures to stem the spread of the virus ahead of the Independence Day holiday last week.
The influx of cases has strained the state’s ability to swiftly conduct contact tracing, and Anchorage health officials last week reported the city had maxed out its capacity to investigate recent cases and track their contacts — a key component in helping to curb the spread of COVID-19.
There were 23 new virus cases as of Tuesday, according to the state health department’s COVID-19 dashboard, including 19 residents and four non-Alaskans. Most new cases were concentrated in Anchorage, where 12 residents and two people from out of state tested positive, according to state data. The state health department also reported two cases among Wasilla residents and one new resident case each in Eagle River, Kenai, Cordova, Ketchikan and a smaller community within the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area.
The remaining nonresident cases involve a tourism industry worker in Seward and someone in a location described as “unknown” in state data.
The Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center on Monday announced two cases there involving a resident and a seafood industry worker. The Ketchikan resident took a COVID-19 test at the airport traveler testing site Saturday and was instructed to quarantine until their results came back, Ketchikan officials said in a statement. The resident received their positive results Monday, and they are asymptomatic and self-isolating, officials said.
The other case — involving an asymptomatic individual who tested positive Monday — was identified through a testing program at a seafood processing plant, according to Ketchikan officials. The person has been quarantining since arriving in Ketchikan and is now in isolation, officials said. It was not immediately clear whether the individual was an Alaska resident or not.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,184 residents and 241 nonresidents have tested positive for the virus. Of those, 607 resident cases and 182 non-Alaskan cases are considered active, meaning they have not yet recovered from COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is far from over,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy wrote in a Facebook post Monday night. “Just as Alaskans did during the 2018 earthquake, 2019 wildfires, and countless times before lookout and care for your fellow Alaskans. Keep your circles small and wear a mask when you can’t social distance. This small action may save a life.”
Alaska health officials continue to urge members of the public to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet from people they don’t live with; wear a face covering in places where it’s difficult to maintain physical distancing; wash their hands frequently; often clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces; stay home if they’re feeling sick; and get tested for COVID-19 if they experience symptoms of the illness.
The state reported 3,090 test results were returned Monday, bringing the total number of tests processed since March to 131,420. Testing numbers reflect the number of tests run, and not necessarily the number of people who have been tested.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reports new virus cases daily based on test results returned the previous day.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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