2 positive COVID-19 cases identified in Fairbanks area

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital
Fairbanks Memorial Hospital in May 2011. (Creative Commons photo by RadioKAOS)

Two people in Fairbanks have tested positive for COVID-19, officials at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital foundation said on Monday evening.

According to Dr. Michael Burton, an emergency medical physician at Fairbanks Memorial, there are two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Fairbanks. Both are men, identified as “older individuals.”  Details have not been disclosed to protect their identity. Both are currently stable and being treated as outpatients, according to Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer.

The two had recently traveled Outside, separately. There is no known link between the two.

Both men had become ill and were diagnosed by doctors and tests later came back positive. Both of the men and their families have been quarantined in their homes.

“Each case makes us more concerned,” Zink said. “Every single day we can slow down the curve is important. We live in a big state; we can socially isolate well.”

It is the second and third positive diagnosis in Alaska. The first was a foreign national who arrived in the state as a pilot on a cargo flight. He developed a fever and respiratory problems shortly after he arrived on March 11. He went to Alaska Regional Hospital for treatment, was stable and in quarantine, Anchorage officials said.

The state will be working all night to identify all the people both of the Fairbanks men have been in contact with in the previous several days, Zink said.

Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said people who are returning to Alaska from spring break should pay attention to people around them and isolate as much as possible, just in case they’ve been exposed.

A hotline has been established at the hospital for people who have questions or concerned about if they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. That number is 907-458-2888.

Dr. Angelique Ramirez said “This is not the time to go to a bar and give your friend a hug. Our mission is the health and well-being of all Alaskans. This is a significant outbreak. It’s been a little bit of a race against time. We will need everybody’s help.”

Ramirez is quality medical director with Foundation Health Partners, which operates Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, the Denali Center and Tanana Valley Clinic.

Testing supplies are still limited, but the foundation has been trying to round up as many supplies as possible and hopes to set up a drive-through testing site as soon as this week, she said. It is important to test the most vulnerable people first, she said.

“We know the community wants this and desires this,” she said.

Having a test does not change the treatment, said  said. The preferred treatment is isolation.

Shelley Ebenal, CEO of Foundation Health Partners emphasized that residents need to make sure they wash their hands, use hand sanitizer and socially isolate. She noted that the group of people at the news conference was not an ideal situation.

“We need community support,” Ebenal said. “We need you to listen to guidelines and obey them. If we don’t, our health system will be overwhelmed.”

Testing is continuing, Zink said, with more than 250 people being tested so far. Three have been positive and the state will update its statistics at noon on Tuesday.

“Get ready, get set, go, guys,” Ebenal said. “It’s here.”

 

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