COVID-19: Alaskans have questions. We have answers.
As the COVID-19 epidemic that started in Wuhan, China spread into a global pandemic, with confirmed cases now present in Alaska, you've sent us questions, and we're tracking down the answers. This page will update with new questions and answers on a rolling basis. Stay healthy. Stay informed. Keep the questions coming.
The travel mandates change June 6th. What's new?
Quarantine and testing requirements are changing.
beginning June 6, 2020, travelers arriving in Alaska from out of state may shorten the mandatory 14-day quarantine if they have negative COVID-19 test results. Travelers who take the test and get results within 72 hours of flying to Alaska are not required to quarantine but will need to get a second test after 7-14 days after arrival in Alaska. Travelers who have a test within 5 days of travel can also avoid quarantine, but are asked to minimize interaction until they receive a second test result after landing in Alaska. The State of Alaska will provide vouchers for the second tests. Travelers arriving without a negative test result will need to quarantine for 14 days, or take a test upon landing and quarantine until a negative result comes in, followed by a second test 7 to 14 days after arrival.
My child is flying with me. Do they have to get tested?
Kids two years old and younger are not required to have a test.
What happens if it turns out another passenger on my plane tests positive?
You may need to quarantine for 14 days.
Federal rules require airline passengers seated next to someone known to be positive for COVID-19 to quarantine for two weeks.
Why are out-of-state travelers required to get a second COVID-19 test after arrival in Alaska?
It will help detect cases acquired during travel.
Tests performed seven days after a person would have been traveling to Alaska, or from their flight to Alaska, will catch approximately 90 percent of COVID-19 cases that would have been acquired during that travel window, according to Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink. At fourteen days, it's closer to 96 percent, Zink said. The state is allowing a retest at seven to 14 days to give travelers flexibility.
How can an out-of-state traveler find a COVID-19 testing location close to them?
There are various options.
Alaska Chief Medical Officer Doctor Anne Zink said there is a national map available that will use your zip code to help you find a testing location. However, the availability of tests for symptomatic and asymptomatic people may vary by location. There are also at-home tests that physicians can order for you, she said. It is possible airports in the Lower 48 will also begin testing, Zink said.
When will more information about Alaska's relaxed quarantine requirements for travelers be available?
More guidance is expected on Tuesday, June 2nd.
The governor's office and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services have said details are still being worked out, and that additional information on changing protocols should be available early in the week.
On what date will travelers to Alaska be able to use a negative test result to avoid mandatory quarantine?
June 6, 2020.
The State of Alaska has said effective June 6, "proof of a negative result on a qualifying COVID-19 test obtained before arriving in Alaska allows residents, visitors and workers (anyone entering the state) to come into our state and not have to do a 14-day quarantine."
Will a serology test showing antibodies to COVID-19 allow a traveler to avoid quarantine?
According to the State of Alaska, "the test must be a PCR test (polymerise chain reaction), not an antibody or a serology test."
Is there an alternative to quarantining for 14 days?
Yes, for travelers with a negative COVID-19 test.
Gov. Dunleavy announced May 29th that they mandatory 14-day quarantine could be avoided for travelers arriving to Alaska by plane if they took a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel and the test result is negative.
What if I arrive in Alaska and have lost my test results, or I did not get a test?
You will need to quarantine for 14 days, or take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and quarantine until the results come in.
What do I do if I am unable to obtain a test prior to traveling to Alaska?
You are asked to self-quarantine.
The length of quarantine will be 14 days if a traveler opts out of testing. If a traveler chooses to get a test after arriving in Alaska, they state of Alaska has said the traveler "must self-quarantine until negative test results come back."
At Which airports will COVID-19 testing be available?
Seven Alaska airports will have testing available for offloading passsengers.
Airports in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg will offer tests, Gov. Dunleavy said Friday, May 29th.
When will travel restrictions change?
June 2, 2020 is the date by which the Governor has said he will re-evaluate travel mandates, including quarantines.
Why is there COVID-19 testing at the airport?
To test employees in essential industries who are traveling in from out of the region or out of state. The State of Alaska has set up airport testing in Anchorage and Fairbanks and is looking to expand to other locations, depending on need.
It's the middle of May. Are we still required to quarantine?
Yes. Travelers are expected to quarantine for 14 days. Workers in jobs within essential / critital infrastructure like fisheries or firefighting are expected to quarantine until they receive a negative COVID-19 test and pass a health screening, a process that can take about 48 hours, according to the state.
How is quarantine enforced?
It's not. The state has repeatedly said it expects people to police themselves, and that it will not use law enforcement resources to track down people who are not complying with health mandates. However, a person who is in violation could become liable - facing fines and poosible jail time -- if an outbreak and associated harm are tracked back to their actions.
Can I go to the dentist?
Yes. Dentists are now allowed to perform elective and emergency procedures. People in high risk categories (those who are over the age of 65, those with underlying health conditions), are cautioned against going to minimize potential risk. The Alaska Dental Association told KTUU people seeking dental care should also plan to have wait a while to get in. While offices are reopening, it may take some time and they will not have as many people physically present in the office as they once did.
Will Anchorage students be back in school in the Fall?
Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop has said the district is planning for three scenarios. The first option is that school resumes in the Fall as usual, but with heightened safety precautions. Scenario two is that in-class coursework will have a parallel online platform so that if there are weeks where school needs to close (for example, during a flu outbreak), then classes could continue from home online until classes resumes in-person. The third option assumes there may be continued community disruption to a summer uptick in COVID-19 cases. If that happens, the district is looking at having the youngest students return first, perhaps on a staggered schedule so that teacher-to-student ratios can be lowered and to ensure more space for social distancing.
My student hasn't been able to keep up during the shut down. How will the district help?
Online summer classes.
ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop said Wednesday that online summer catch-up courses will be available for credit recovery for grades 9-12. Students who wish to get ahead will also have options. Other supports will be available for middle school and elementary school, as well as additional supports coming in August before the 2020-2021 school year begins.
How will the Anchorage School District celebrate graduating seniors?
Through social media, televised video graduations, yard signs and more.
ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop said Wednesday that the district is working on graduation videos, televised virtual ceremonies, senior photos, and more. Families should be receiving the details by email.
In Anchorage, why are some businesses required to use masks and face coverings, while others are only encouraged to do it?
Local and state requirements vary.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has explained that the distinction has to do with whether a business is providing essential services, like grocery stores. Essential services businesses have been allowed to operate during the shut-down periods implemented to flatten the COVID-19 curve. But non-essential businesses were required to close. Now that communities are re-opening, those businesses designated non-critical are required to adhere to the municpality's stricter requirements.
In Anchorage, what are the consequences to non-essential businesses that ignore the COVID-19 safety requirements, like social distancing and mask wearing?
Possible code violations.
Chris Schutte, Anchorage's director of Economic and Community Development, has said violators are likely to be spoken with by code enforcement. Schutte and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz have emphasized a non-punative approach and they are encouraging businesses to voluntarily comply.
How many people are actually wearing masks?
It's hard to say.
However, a recent, informal study by UAA Psychology Professor EJ David and his children for that among shoppers at four grocery stores mid-day, about 49% appeared to be wearing masks. The study was based on observations made by him and his children as they sat in the family car, watched shoppers, and recorded the data. Among the subjects they recorded, they found women were more likely than men to wear masks, as were people of color and elders. Shoppers at Costco had the highest rate of mask-wearing, while Walmart shoppers were the least likely to wear masks.
Can air conditioning spread COVID-19?
The air flow may cause respiratory droplets to travel further.
A study out of China published by the CDC found that the disease spread to nine others from one symptom-free, contagious person who ate at a restaurant with their family. Two other family groups were seated at nearby tables and all were within the air circulation pattern of a nearby air conditioner. Seventythree other individuals in the restaurant at the time did not become ill. Researchers concluded the means of transfer was most likely through respiratory droplets, which traveled further than normal due to the circulating air pattern from the air conditioner. The researches said the findings suggest businesses should look at creating distance between customers, and at venilation, as they begin to reopen.
With schools still closed and many youth summer programs cancelled, what consideration has the state given to workers who are also caregivers for the elderly and children as the state begins a phased emergence from the hunker-down mandates?
Gonvernor Dunleavy said with regard to daycare, there will have to be "some individual choices." Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said a federal childcare development block grant will help. His staff is also looking at how to open up child care sites to more families than frontline essential personnel (medical workers).
Will businesses looking to re-open be able to find enough hand sanitizer, gloves and face masks to keep employees and customers safe?
Governor Michael Dunleavy acknowledges there is national and international demand for these supplies, and that hospitals must be taken care of first. He has said as the state learns about availability of these itms, the state will share the information with businesses.
My family wants to go camping. Are we allowed to go? Are campgrounds allowed to open?
"We've always said get out and enjoy Alaska," Governor Dunleavy told Alaskans in his daily address Tuesday evening. The guidance is to stay six feet away from others who are not in your family group. More restrictions may apply to communities that are not on the road systems.
The President has said it's too soon to open spas, beauty salons, tattoo parlors and barber shops. Why is Alaska different?
Governor Dunleavy has said for states with higher infection rates and strained hospital closures, it makes sense to keep these types of businesses closed. But Alaska believes it has the ability to phase these businesses in safely, as the state's infection numbers remain comparatively low.
How did the state determine that it was safe to open personal care services?
Public health leaders across the country are tackling this question daily about how best to balance business services against ongoing mitigation measures..Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink has said basic personal hygeine remains the key: frequent, thorough handwashing; cleaning of high touch surfaces; use of homemade masks to prevent droplet spread; and continued social distancing.
I know someone who isn't following the Governor's mandates. What can I do?
Complaints may be filed by email. But the state isn't keen on enforcement, at least not yet.
There are significant civil and potentially criminal penalties for individuals and businesses who choose to ignore the state's travel and hunker-down mandates aimed at "flattening the curve." The curve is a reference to the visual representation of the projected surge in COVID-19 cases and hospital stays that rises sharp and swift if mitigation measures, like social distancing, are not employed. The governor has repeatedly said he expects Alaskans to police themselves, and that the state will intervene early with persuasive conversations in lieu of penalties when it becomes aware of problems. However, because of the seriousness and quick spread of the illness, the state has made clear that ignoring the prevention mandates could be considered reckless endagerment, a criminal offense. Concerned citizens are asked to refrain from calling 9-1-1 and to instead email complaints to email@example.com.
I live in a small community. Can I drive to a bigger community to get groceries?
Yes, but with prudence.
The state expects individuals to get "critical personal needs" met at the closest location possible, according to Jeremy Zidek with Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. If you can buy what you need at a small gas station or town store, you're expected to do it. But if you need items the store doesn't have, it's permissable to travel to a store that does, he said. People are asked to limit who goes with them and to follow social distancing guidelines while traveling and shopping.
I have a family member who needs to travel home from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Are they allowed to get a ride home? Can someone meet us halfway?
Law enforcement is not enforcing the interstate travel mandates, according to Jeremy Zidek with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emegency Management. Getting home is a permissable activity, Zidek said, and would fall under the exemption to be out attending to critical personal needs.
I live in Seward and am worried about people traveling here for an easy getaway. Can we establish a road block?
In theory, yes, but it might be difficult to enforce.
Small communities with a population less than 3,000 people are allowed to implement additional travel restrcitions, according to Jeremy Zidek with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. However, this allowance is primarily intended for communities that are not on the road system and which lack immediate access to large health care facilities, Zidek said. The state is also not presently enforcing road system travel, and the route to Seward is via a state highway.
I see people recreating who are not maintaining a six foot distance from each other. What can I do?
During his regularly scheduled daily press availability on March 31, Governor Dunleavy said law enforcement would not respond to a call to go track down people seen too close to each other. While the COVID-19 pandemic and its spread in Alaska is worrisome, law enforcement personnel continue to be needed for the everday policing they did prior to the pandemic, he said. The governor has said he expects people to use common sense and to not put themselves or others in harm's way.
When will schools resume?
Anchorage public schools will resume March 31st. But only online.
Some private schools, including Pacific Northern Academy, have already moved their classes online. The Anchorage School District told KTUU it is "on track to begin rolling out distance learning options on March 31. Teachers continue working on their lesson plans this week and will begin distance learning in earnest next week." High School electives are due to begin April 13th. For other grade levels, the district said it wants "to give our students some time to get used to the online platforms and the new process before offering elective courses." The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has said it will start distance learning beginning Monday, March 30.
How will students catch up?
Educators are still working this out.
From Alan Brown, Director of Communications for the Anchorage School District: " It’s too early to tell whether or not we will have to extend the school year. Right now our focus is on getting students back to learning with their teachers via remote methods. We are committed to increasing summer school opportunities as needed to ensure our high school seniors can get the credits they need for graduation."
Is it safe to handle money?
Yes, with one exception.
COVID-19 is not thought to live long on cardboard and paper. For this reason, money handling is generally considered safe, according to Alaska State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin. The exception would be if someone who is obviously sick handles the money and gives it to you, or if you see them cough or sneeze on the money before handing it to you. In such instances, it would still take you touching the money almost immediately, then touching your face, nose, eyes or mouth to have a risk of infection. McLaughlin said in such a scenario - common sense prevails: wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as you can after the transaction.
Is it safe to handle mail and packages?
It is considered low-risk.
Experts, including the CDC and Alaska State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin, say the likelihood of the virus infecting someone who handled a contaminated package or mail is low. There are no known cases where this has happened. It's also believed the virus does not live long on cardboard and paper. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus lives about 24 hours on cardboard. Additinionally, the main kown source of spread is via close contact to someone who has the virus, through nasal discharge, saliva, coughs and sneezes. Frequent handwashing and social distancing are considered the best defense against transer of the virus.
Who do I tell if I'm aware of a person or business who is not following the state's mandates, including the rules for self-quarantine after travel?
Violations may be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org.
According the State of Alaska's
, if you know a business or individual that isn’t following a mandate, violations may be reported to email@example.com.
Do homemade masks work against coronavirus? Will hospitals use them?
Yes and no.
Because the effectiveness of cloth masks is unknown in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the CDC has listed them as an item of last resort for health care providers. Generally, homemade masks resemble surgical masks and are loose-fitting. That is, they don't sculpt to the face the way N-95 respirator-style masks do. Because of loose fit, it's thought that this style of masks won't prevent transmission of the virus. But it may help someone who is ill from spreading germs. The N-95 label is earned when a mask and the material it's made of effectively defends against 95 percent of very small particles, like airborne contaminants and germs. Most homemade masks will not contain this specialized material.
The Alaska Native Medical Center is among the sites in Alaska accepting homemade masks. For those who wish to make masks, the following criteria must be followed:
·Recommended materials include a single layer of tightly-woven material, such as a dish/tea towel or bed sheets/antimicrobial pillowcases
·The materials used must be able to be washed/dried on high heat
·Please wash your hands and keep your area clean when making the masks.
·Do not offer to volunteer if you have any symptoms.
·When completed, please bundle masks in packs of 25 or less in a sealed zip lock bag and drop off at the main hospital entrance.
·Masks will be laundered before giving them out to patients and visitors.
ANMC has shared this video on
Indiana-based Deaconess Health Systems also has a
Joann Fabrics also has
If you've had COVID-19 and recovered, can you catch it again?
The science isn't in, but it appears unlikely.
Re-infection has not been formally tested. But the nation's top infectious disease expert, The National Institutes of Health Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said there's every reason to believe that once you get it and recover, you won't get it again. Dr. Fauci noted a patient could acquire a coronavirus variation, like SARS or MERS. But he believes all indications are you'll have the defenses you need to stave off the specific virus that causes COVID-19 if re-exposed.
If it's not safe to eat in restaurants (dine-in), why is it considered okay to eat take-out?
Food is not a known path of contagion.
Alaska State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin explains "the purpose of closing bars and restaurants and some of these other areas -- public establishments -- is really for minimizing direct contact with other people. Because, again, the primary mode of transmission of this virus is through respiratory droplets and mainly through coughs and sneezes." Prohibiting dine-in options is one way to promote social distancing, basically staying far enough away from each other to avoid contagion. What's more, the FDA has said: "...there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19."
Can the coronavirus survive cold weather?
We found the answer to this on the
section of the World Health Organization's website.
The World Health Organization says cold weather and snow cannot kill the new coronavirus, because human body temperature stays warm even in cold climates.
Can mosquitoes transmit the virus?
According to the World Health Organization, mosquitoes cannot transmit the virus because the virus spreads through respiratory droplets associated with coughs and sneezes, and saliva or nasal discharge. WHO states "to date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes."
Can my dog/cat /pet catch coronavirus? Can they transmit the virus to people?
The CDC has said at this time there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the illness. The exception maybe if a person infected with COVID-19 pets an animal and transfers the virus to the animal's skin or fur, and then someone else touches the animal picking up the germs, then touches their face. This is different, though than animals becoming ill with the virus or being carriers of the disease. However, the CDC does recommend limiting contact between pets and people who are sick with COVID-19. "We pet our pets. And so if the pet goes into the ill person's room and then comes out into the rooms where people who are well are, that could be a route of that virus being on the fur, and then somebody else pets that fur and then touches their eyes nose or mouth, so that would be another potential route of infection," Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska State Epidemiologist, told KTUU.