State’s top doctor says bars have been linked to seven outbreaks of COVID-19

Update – This update was written by KTOO’s Andrew Kitchenman

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said during a news conference on Tuesday that he would use things like coronavirus case counts and hospital capacity to consider whether to change state health policies.

When asked if he would impose restrictions on bars, Dunleavy said he’ll evaluate state data over the next week or two. 

“Looking at our bed counts, looking at all of the metrics that we have– based upon that, we will make decisions on advisories, protocols and other steps if we need to,” Dunleavy said. “Everything is on the table to fight a pandemic.” 

Dunleavy credited Alaskans’ behavior with leading to some of the lowest case counts in the country. 

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, speaks at a news conference, March 23, 2020. (Creative Commons photo by Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

But cases have increased in recent weeks. And Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said though these cases are in different parts of the state. Bars have been at the center of some of the spread. 

“Just over the past weekend, we had seven cases in seven different bars that had tested positive with a lot of different outbreaks,” Zink said. “Bars right now are really a high-risk activity. And so if you do attend a bar — particularly indoors — know that that’s a high-risk activity and you really need to minimize your contact with others, particularly those who are vulnerable for the next 14 days afterwards. We’re just seeing more and more outbreaks associated with that.”

Zink said Anchorage hospitals — which serve as a hub for health care in the state — are running at roughly 80 percent capacity. 

 

Original Story

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

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)

The governor, will be joined by Alaska’s Public Health Director Heidi Hedberg, the CEO of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation Bryan Butcher, Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter and the state’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink.

Beginning March 10, Gov. Dunleavy and members of his administration held press conferences almost daily to discuss the state’s response to COVID-19. But that changed in early June and there has not been a press conference for nearly a month.  Generally, during the press conferences 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.

State health officials reported 48 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, a new record high. There were 36 Alaskans and 12 non-residents.

The administration has imposed 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. Many of those mandates have been repealed or altered as the state reopened. As the state’s case count has climbed, doctors and other medical providers have asked for a mask mandate.

But that hasn’t happened. Instead, when a city-wide mask mandate went into effect on Monday in Anchorage, the Dunleavy administration stepped in and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson sent a memo to state workers stating that the order “does not apply to State of Alaska buildings and facilities within the Municipality of Anchorage.”

The city fired back saying that the state has no power to override the city’s mask order.

You can watch today’s press conference live on this post, the governor’s Facebook or Livestream pages.

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