‘We crossed a line today’: Dunleavy orders statewide shelter-in-place, limits travel

Update (6:13 p.m.) — Casey Grove and Tegan Hanlon, Alaska Public Media

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a news conference on COVID-19 in Anchorage on Thursday. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink spoke remotely and appeared on a TV screen to the governor’s right. (Creative Commons photo courtesy Alaska Governor’s Office)

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday announced two new mandates to further limit Alaskans’ movement and travel within the state, as the number of known COVID-19 cases continues to grow, and the first Alaskan died in the state after testing positive for the disease.

“We crossed a line today for Alaska,” the governor said.

One mandate requires Alaskans to stay in their homes and practice social distancing unless they’re essential workers, including employees in health care and government services. Under the mandate, people can go outside, but they must remain six feet or more away from individuals not in their households.

The mandate goes into effect at 5 p.m. Saturday and will be reevaluated in about two weeks, said Adam Crum, Health and Social Services commissioner.

According to an informational document from the state of Alaska about the mandate, law enforcement officials will enforce the new rules.

“Law enforcement officials will be responding to complaints and educating the public when they notice obvious violations that jeopardize the safety of individuals or the community,” it said.

At the news conference, though, Dunleavy described enforcement as Alaskans “self-policing.”

The other new mandate restricts travel between communities in the state, unless that travel is to support critical infrastructure or is for critical personal needs. That mandate goes into effect at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Alaska is up to a total of 85 known COVID-19 cases as of Friday, up 16 cases from the day before. The new cases announced Friday include nine male and seven female patients.

Dunleavy’s new mandates follow calls from doctors, legislators and others that he take further action to limit Alaskan’s movement in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Many local leaders, including in Anchorage and Juneau, have already issued shelter-in-place or hunker-down orders for their communities.

Across the U.S., about two dozen states have ordered their residents to stay at home, The New York Times reported Friday. In more than a dozen other states without a statewide mandate, cities and counties have issued the order.

Update (5:24 p.m.)Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media

The number of COVID-19 cases in Alaska continues to grow. By Friday, the state reported 85 known cases, up from 69 the day before.

In Friday’s news briefing, Gov. Mike Dunleavy confirmed the first in-state death of a patient who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Original story — Rashah McChesney, KTOO

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about the state's COVID-19 response from the Atwood Building in Anchorage on March 20, 2020.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about the state’s COVID-19 response from the Atwood Building in Anchorage on March 20, 2020. Also pictured: Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, and an unidentified sign language interpreter. (Creative Commons photo courtesy Alaska Governor’s Office)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s latest COVID-19 press conference is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday.

The virus is spreading throughout Alaska and the rest of the country. The Associated Press reported Friday that America’s coronavirus infections have surged to 100,000 — making it the first nation to surpass that number.

To date, Alaska has reported 69 cases of people testing positive for the virus. So far, the vast majority of those patients are recovering at home. However, three people have been hospitalized, and the Anchorage Daily News reported the first in-state death due to the virus on Friday.

The governor, Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink have been holding briefings almost daily since March 10.

They’ve shared updates on the number of people in the state with confirmed cases, announced public health mandates, and explained the administration’s strategy and rationale.

To date, they’ve imposed 10 public health mandates that have reshaped daily life across Alaska to combat the spread of the virus. Those mandates and other Alaska-specific COVID-19 resources and information are available at coronavirus.alaska.gov.

On Thursday, they warned that Alaska does not have the medical infrastructure to handle a severe outbreak of coronavirus. Each repeated the warning that Alaskans need to isolate themselves to slow the spread of the virus. But they did not issue a statewide shelter-in-place order, despite growing pressure from emergency room directors and lawmakers. Several communities in the state have already issued versions of shelter-in-place orders.

Dunleavy said the state will discuss travel within Alaska Friday. He also said they’ll talk about the economic response of the virus — though that discussion will be ongoing, Dunleavy said, as details of the state Legislature’s stimulus plan emerges.

The federal government approved a $2.2 trillion rescue package on Friday that President Donald Trump signed shortly after.

You can watch Friday’s press conference live on this post, the governor’s Facebook or Livestream pages, or on 360 North television.

The headline for this story has been updated.

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