DHSS announces new coronavirus cases in Alaska

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Watch the recording of Gov. Mike Dunleavy and officials addressing the public on Channel 2's Facebook page.

The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported Thursday that at least ten new cases of the new coronavirus had been confirmed in the state, with the statewide total jumping to 69, and then to 70 when the Ketchikan Gateway Borough announced shortly after that another case had been confirmed there.

"We passed as a country the number of cases in China," said Dr. Anne Zink, State of Alaska Chief Medical Officer, adding that we now have 85,000 cases across the United States. "Today, we also had 10 more cases (in Alaska) since I last reported."

Of the ten new Alaska cases DHSS reported, five are in Anchorage, two are in Fairbanks, one is in Juneau, and two are in North Pole, she said. Four of those cases were confirmed in men and six were in women. One case was identified in someone under the age of 18.

The Ketchikan case, announced during the DHSS press conference, was in a person identified as having been in close contact to two people who previously reported testing positive, according to borough officials.

Zink also said that none of the cases were travel-related.

"We've done a lot of work to get in front of the curve, and slow down the spread of the disease," Zink said. "It's not just trying to avoid people getting sick, but also to not overwhelm the healthcare system."

Three patients out of the 70 positive tests have been hospitalized, and each is in a different region of the state, Zink said. Transfer of patients from one hospital to another has occurred.

Zink, who was asked on Wednesday about equipment available across the state, said that about 200 ventilators are available for use in Alaska. She asked that people not hoard medications, as they are needed by providers who are on the front lines, and she also said that about 2,000 beds are available to help care for people with severe cases of coronavirus.

"There's a lot of different models out there to say, for example, how many beds we'd need," she said. "We are actively trying to be proactive in thinking about, where do we need resources, what do those modeling predictions look like, to support Alaskans. We cannot get enough beds, enough people, if we do not implement social distancing."

Every day we can buy with social distancing, she said, gives more time to prepare hospital beds, to make or obtain personal protective equipment, and to slow the spread of coronavirus.

"We've got a lot of heroes in our healthcare system," Said Gov. Mike Dunleavy, adding that a surge in the state is expected. "They're going to be called upon to battle this. They're on the front lines."

Dunleavy said that with the "all-hands-on-deck" scenario, every single healthcare worker is going to be enlisted to help.

Additionally, along with the main update provided by health officials, Dunleavy spoke about House Bill 308, which - among other things - will increase benefits to seniors by $75 per week and will "assist with protecting unemployed workers," Dunleavy said. He's also signed Senate Bill 74 that adds additional support for students amid pushes for distance learning, among other things.

An update regarding travel will take place Friday afternoon, according to the governor. He said a rollout will help businesses and workers and that "there's going to be help, it's going to be on the way."

This story is being updated. Check back for details.
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