Health officials monitoring potential COVID-19 outbreaks in Girdwood, Ketchikan

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in communities across the state, health officials are monitoring for potential outbreaks in towns like Girdwood and Ketchikan.

In those communities, the people who tested positive for coronavirus were tied to large social gatherings.

In Girdwood, residents are being cautious after five people who were at a private gathering earlier this month tested positive for the virus. There is concern that they may have infected others at another gathering a week later.

“It is a reminder that it is out there, and that the virus is still continuing,” Mike Edgington, co-chair of the Girdwood Board of Supervisors, said.

Edgington says the outbreak has been a wake-up call for the community.

“There is concern I think and a little bit of surprise. I think on the positive side, probably all of us, country-wide, worldwide, have relaxed our standards a little bit from the early days and it was a good wake up call from our point of view,” he said.

Girdwood has had a total of seven confirmed cases.

“I suspect there will be more cases which arise from those particular gatherings, I think the community, in general, is going to be a lot more careful going forward,” he added.

The Anchorage Health Department issued an alert on Friday urging people to avoid crowds and gatherings. The city reported it was monitoring more than 40 people from the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage and Girdwood that were associated with gatherings.

In Ketchikan, there was a similar concern involving a traveler who tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Rodney Dial says the young man ignored quarantine orders and attended social gatherings over the weekend.

“We were very concerned about that, it's isolated and it’s an island,” Dial said.

The borough is now investigating the case.

“If some action is warranted we'll go ahead and look at that, but we're looking at voluntary compliance, we really want to work with people, this is not about punishing people,” he said.

It’s now waiting to find out if the person infected others. The town has had 27 positive cases.

“In a small community like Ketchikan if we had a few people that were completely disregarding the rules it could get to be very problematic for us,” he added.

The mayor says the borough is stressing to people that they need to maintain proper guidelines, "so that we can keep it manageable in our community and hopefully get our economy back,” he said.

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