Alaska coronavirus case total rises, with three more confirmed Thursday

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Three new cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed in Alaska, bringing the state total to 12, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Thursday.

"We're fortunate today that we've had no deaths in Alaska," he said, "but we have both a health crisis and an economic crisis on our hands."

The three new cases include two out of Fairbanks and one out of Ketchikan, Dunleavy said. According to the Department of Health and Social Services as of Thursday positive tests have been confirmed in four Alaskan cities: Anchorage (4 cases), Fairbanks (5 cases), Ketchikan (2 cases), and Seward (1 case).

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said extensive travel histories of the three individuals confirmed Thursday had not yet been determined, but the individuals in Fairbanks reportedly have not traveled in the last two weeks.

"Every time we hear a new case, my heart races," said Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, "but the actions we do now can save the lives of yourself or other Alaskans. I cannot emphasize that enough. These small measures now can make a gigantic difference."

Zink said no Alaskan patients have been hospitalized.

She continued encouraging social distancing and keeping yourself separated or otherwise isolated from people as much as possible. Guidelines of social distancing including keeping at least six feet between yourself and others, in addition to practicing good hand washing and only going out if needed. Zink also reminded people that even quick trips to run errands or otherwise do work near and around others put you at risk of being exposed to the virus.

"You may be asymptomatic," she said. "That's why we give larger recommendations."

State officials also said Thursday that two new health mandates were being implemented: All elective or non-urgent procedures for the next three months are to be canceled or postponed to fall outside that window, and elective oral health procedures must also be postponed, but for a month instead of three.

As for border closures or "shelter in place orders," officials maintained people should be prepared for anything and that various options are being explored.

"Nothing is off the table," Dunleavy said, "and we're examining any and all approaches to protecting Alaskans.

"We'll be having discussions here in the next few days probably about non-essential travel," he said, "but those (Canada) borders are still open."

As for economic fallout, Dunleavy said that more details about how to deal with that should be released Friday.

"We have to stabilize our economy, we know that," Dunleavy said. "This is widespread across all sectors."

Dunleavy also said he asked President Trump to do what he can to move federal funding so that it might be available for Alaska.

Department of Health and Social Services officials announced Wednesday that three new cases had been confirmed in Alaska that day. The agency's website said 400 tests had come back negative, but that number only reflected testing results from Jan. 1 through March 16.

Learn more about how to protect yourself and others by going to the Centers for Disease Control website dedicated to informing the public about the virus.

This story is being updated. Please check back for details.
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