Alaska governor, Anchorage mayor hold coronavirus news briefings

Update (Monday, March 16, 8:47 p.m.) — Kris Capps and Julie Stricker, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Officials at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital foundation say two people in Fairbanks, both older men who had been out of state, have tested positive for COVID-19. Both of the men and their families have been quarantined in their homes. (Read more)

Original story

Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Monday announced that all state-operated libraries, archives and museums will be closed to the public for the rest of the month.

Dunleavy has also directed all residential boarding school programs to start sending students home in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Dunleavy made the announcement around 5 p.m. on Monday during a news conference streamed online. Reporters were asked to call into the briefing instead of participating in-person in an effort to practice social distancing, Dunleavy’s office said.

“There is no reason to panic, but there is reason to be concerned,” he said.

Dunleavy also said he signed legislation Monday that will provide $4 million to the state health department for its response to COVID-19. The department will bring on temporary workers statewide, he said.

He said he signed another bill expanding telehealth benefits to Alaska. Health officials are encouraging anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms to utilize telehealth, he said.

Alaska announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday. State officials described the man as a cargo plane pilot who had recently arrived in Anchorage.

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said there were no other positive cases in the state as of Monday afternoon.

On Friday, Dunleavy closed schools to students until March 30. The University of Alaska system has also moved most of its classes online and asked students to leave dorms.

Last week, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz ordered the closure of all municipal libraries and civic, cultural and recreational facilities through the end of the month.

And earlier Monday, Berkowitz issued an order banning dine-in service for food and drinks at restaurants, bars and breweries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. His order also closes gyms, bingo halls and theaters, and it bans gatherings of more than 50 people, though it does not apply to grocery stores. Berkowitz’s order took effect Monday at 5 p.m. and lasts through the end of March.

Dunleavy said he spoke with Berkowitz on Monday. He said the mayor acted out of an “abundance of caution for the municipality of Anchorage.”

Asked if Dunleavy was considering enacting similar bans statewide, Dunleavy said: “We have that discussion every day, sometimes twice a day. We’re trying to keep ahead of this spread of this virus. One of the trigger points that we would be looking at is if we had a community infection.”

Dunleavy said if someone who lived in Alaska tested positive, the state would give “serious consideration to limiting the ability for folks to go to restaurants, movie theaters, etc. statewide.”

“We’re not there yet,” he said.

Dunleavy said that could change quickly.

“That may change tonight, that may change tomorrow and that’s why people need to stay tuned, because things are going to potentially move quickly,” he said.

Officials with Anchorage’s municipal government, public health system and school district scheduled a news conference for 7 p.m. Monday. They set aside two hours to cover emergency orders, the health care system’s response, hospital surge capacity, people experiencing homelessness, school closures and mental health.

The Anchorage news conference is available via Alaska Public Media’s Facebook Live and on 360 North television.

This story has been updated.

 

COVID-19 Emergency Community Update

The Municipality of Anchorage is providing an update to the community to give the public a more comprehensive understanding of the Anchorage-wide response to COVID-19, including why these actions are being taken. Hear from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz; Bill Falsey, Anchorage Municipal Manager; Natasha Pineda, Director, Anchorage Health Department; Dr. Bruce Chandler, Medical Officer, Anchorage Health Department; Jodie Hettrick, Chief, Anchorage Fire Department; Ella Goss, MSN, RN, CEO, Providence Alaska Medical Center; Dr. Michael Bernstein, Chief Medical Officer, Providence Health & Services Alaska; Dr. Keri Gardner, Chief Medical Officer, Alaska Regional Hospital; Dr. Deena Bishop, Superintendent, Anchorage School District; Renee Rafferty, Regional Director of Behavioral Health, Providence Health & Services. Follow Alaska Public Media for the latest coverage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak by visiting www.alaskapublic.org/coronavirus.

Posted by Alaska Public Media on Monday, March 16, 2020