10 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed by DHSS, security heightened at JBER

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (KTUU)
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services confirmed 10 new cases of COVID-19 in three Alaska communities, bringing the total number of cases in Alaska to at least 32.

Of the ten new cases, seven are in Anchorage, two in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and one in Juneau.

Simultaneously, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson upgraded its status to Health Protection Condition-Charlie and implemented a series of security and public health measures Sunday evening.

The announcement marks the first cases in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the City and Borough of Juneau.

DHSS said all cases were in adults and none were hospitalized. DHSS says that these persons are isolating themselves at home and their close contacts are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor themselves for symptoms.

The statement from DHSS says the Section of Epidemiology is "continuing to investigate these cases in cooperation with Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, the Anchorage Health Department and local public health nurses."

JBER Public Affairs Spokesman Master Sgt. Jonathan Foster could not confirm how many, if any, of the additional cases were on JBER, but did confirm to KTUU that Sunday evening, the military base was upgraded to Health Protection Condition Charlie — defined as an elevated risk of sustained community transmission.

The heightened status implements "substantial health protection measures" including changes to duty locations, distribution of medical countermeasures if available, a stop-movement, limiting travel to mission-essential travel only, a suspension of the trusted travel program, closure of the Arctic Valley, Government Hill, Post Road gates to private traffic, closure of the Richardson Vehicle Center, and other heightened precautionary measures going into effect Sunday evening.

Foster says JBER officials are contact-tracing to determine the scope of potential exposure of COVID-19.

"Our top priority for JBER is the preservation of force and mission while we work to protect the health, safety, and the wellfare of our community," Foster told KTUU.

Child development centers on JBER will remain open, but only for on-duty mission-essential personnel.

According to DHSS, one of the Anchorage cases was travel-related outside of Alaska. The remaining cases are not known to be travel related at this time.

“At least two of the new Anchorage cases that we are investigating have no clearly identified contact with a confirmed case,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s State Epidemiologist. “This indicates that community transmission of COVID-19 appears to be occurring in the Anchorage area.”

DHSS reminds travelers arriving from anywhere outside of Alaska to self-quarantine for 14 days.

This is a developing story.

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