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COVID-19 Case Spike Worries Hospital Association

"We think the alarm bells should be going off." - Jared Kosin, CEO, Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association
Allen, Monroe and Muhlenberg counties reported additional cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
Allen, Monroe and Muhlenberg counties reported additional cases of COVID-19 on Monday.(MGN)
Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 5:13 AM AKDT
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Alaska has seen triple-digit daily COVID-19 counts in recent days. In a prepared statement Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz called the rising numbers “a significant COVID-19 case spike“ and said we must defend our hospital capacity.”

‘We think the alarm bells should be going off because the number of positive case counts we’re seeing day after day is not going to be sustainable with our capacity needs in the future. So we think there’s a big problem,” Jared Kosin, CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, told KTUU Monday.

Numbers released July 13th show 1,539 Alaskans have been diagnosed with the illness. Six hundred twenty people are considered recovered, while 902 people are active cases. Seventeen people have died. Another 306 people have tested positive in the state, but as non-residents they are not included in the state’s cumulative count.

On Monday, the state reported a total of 71 new cases, 60 residents and 11 non-residents. On Sunday, the state reported 116 new cases. On Saturday, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink announced via twitter that nearly 30% of all of the cases Alaska has occurred within the last week. “We are moving in the wrong direction,” she tweeted within the same thread.

“We believe mathematically that will translate to increased hospitalizations and increased hospitalizations at some point will take us under. Something has to be done now,” Kosin told KTUU.

The state reported a cumulative 87 hospitalizations Monday. Where before Anchorage hospitals may have had a few COVID-19 patients on any given day -- three to five -- today 18 people are hospitalized in Anchorage, Kosin said.

[At] “this moment in time, hospital capacity is good. It has been good for the last several months. But the problem is that’s not the indicator we think people should be looking at. That’s a lagging indicator. By the time that we report to the state, the capacity is not looking good. It’s going to be way too late,” he said.

Hospital capacity in Anchorage’s urban centers are a statewide concern, as smaller regions will send their most critical patients to Anchorage for more intense care. Less bed space in Anchorage means smaller communities will need to manage surges locally. Emergency managers and medical providers have prepared for surges, but remain concerned.

“We’re nervous about Alaska’s statewide count and the levels that hospitals around the state are going in and being able to hold because our more serious patients do get sent on from Nome to Anchorage, and if those hospitals are filled up, we’re going to be looking at having those patients stay here in Nome longer, and more serious issues,” Reba Lean, Public Relations Manager for the Norton Sound Health Corporation told KTUU.

Monday evening, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy assured Alaskans “that we are going to do everything that we can to mitigate and manage this virus.”

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure our hospital capacity remains intact, that we do everything we can to safeguard those that are the most vulnerable -- our seniors, those that are in institutions, our elderly, those that have health issues -- but we are going to need your help as individuals,” he said.

Dunleavy and his team, along with Berkowitz earlier in the day, emphasized the importance of wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing as ways to slow the spread of the disease.

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