Number of coronavirus cases in Alaska jumps to 59

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Alaska jumped to 59 on Wednesday, up 17 from the announcement a day earlier, as the outbreak continues.

Two of the people who tested positive for the disease were hospitalized and in critical condition, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said at a news conference Wednesday evening. She later announced there was also a third person in the hospital in Alaska with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Of the new cases, 11 are from Anchorage, one is from Fairbanks, three are from Ketchikan and one is from North Pole, Zink said. Another is from Homer — that person became ill after traveling out of state, tested positive in Anchorage and has not left the city, said the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

“As we’ve been seeing every day, the cases continue to climb,” Zink said. “Again, we didn’t know this disease existed a few months ago, and what we’re seeing is that it is very contagious.”

She said the virus is in an “acceleration phase,” with a huge increase in cases across the United States. Alaska is a little bit behind the rest of the country, Zink said, “so we’re not quite at that acceleration curve, but I am highly concerned that we’re headed that direction.”

The total count includes 25 confirmed cases in Anchorage, including on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, three in the Chugiak-Eagle River area and two in Palmer. There’s also 11 cases in Ketchikan, eight in Fairbanks and two in Juneau.

Of the 59 cases, 24 are believed to be related to out-of-state travel, six are not related to travel and 16 had been in close contact with someone who also had the disease. The rest remain under investigation, according to the health department.

More than 1,800 COVID-19 tests had been completed for Alaskans by Tuesday.

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Alaska has continued to grow each day since the first case was announced in Anchorage on March 12. Dunleavy also announced Tuesday that a resident of Southeast Alaska had died of COVID-19 in Washington state on March 16. They were the first Alaskan who’s known to have died of the disease.

Across the United States by Wednesday, there were more than 54,000 cases of COVID-19 and 737 deaths as the outbreak continues, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This story has been updated.

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