No new cases of COVID-19 reported in Alaska

May 19, 2020 ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today announced no new cases of COVID-19. The total Alaska case count remains at 399.

This report reflects data from 12:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on May 18 that posted at noon today on the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub.

There have been a total of 43 hospitalizations and 10 deaths with no new hospitalizations or deaths reported yesterday. Recovered cases now total 348, including three new recovered cases recorded yesterday. A total of 36,380 tests have been conducted.

The Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) also announced today a positive case in an inmate at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. DHSS’ Section of Epidemiology and Division of Public Health Nursing will work closely with DOC on the investigation and contact tracing. The case will be included in tomorrow’s case count for May 19.

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Expanding Your Social Bubble

As Alaska reopens, we can slightly expand our social bubbles to be connected with a few close friends or another family to help support each other. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services recommends creating a small and consistent “trusted bubble” and outside that bubble, continue to practice physical distancing of 6 feet from others. Keep up the great work! Learn more at: dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/bubble.aspx

Three new cases of COVID-19 reported in two Alaska communities

May 18, 2020 ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Anchorage (2) and Willow (1). This brings the total Alaska case count to 399.

These cases reflect data from 12:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on May 17 that posted at noon today on the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub.

Of the new Alaska cases, one is male and two are female. One is aged 10-19; one is aged 20-29; and one is aged 30-39. There have been a total of 43 hospitalizations and 10 deaths with no new hospitalizations or deaths reported yesterday. Recovered cases now total 345, including one new recovered case recorded yesterday. A total of 35,611 tests have been conducted.

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State Travel Mandate Extended Through June 2

SELF-QUARANTINE ORDER EXTENDED FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INTERSTATE TRAVELERS INTO ALASKA: State of Alaska Health Mandate 10 requires all people arriving in Alaska, whether they are a resident, worker or visitor, to self-quarantine for 14 days. Upon arrival in Alaska, travelers must fill out a declaration form, list the places they traveled in the previous 14 days and identify the location where they will quarantine. This mandate was updated on May 15, 2020 to extend through June 2, 2020.

If you are coming to Alaska for work and you are considered part of the critical infrastructure work force, you must submit a plan to akcovidplans@alaska.gov. This plan must outline how you will avoid the spread of COVID-19 and not endanger the lives of the communities in which you operate, of others who serve as a part of that infrastructure, or the ability of that critical infrastructure to function.

Read Mandate 10 at covid19.alaska.gov/health-mandates.

Fill out the Travel Declaration Form: gov.alaska.gov/…/COVID-19-Health-Mandate-010-Travel-Declara…

As restrictions ease, Alaskans may choose to slightly expand their social circle to strengthen support networks while still preventing the spread of COVID-19

May 15, 2020 ANCHORAGE — As Alaska slowly reopens its economy and eases restrictions, some Alaskans are wondering how much socializing is reasonable if we hope to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Phase 2 of the Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan, gatherings of fewer than 50 people are allowed as long as non-household members remain 6 feet apart. But what about having dinner with one other household at your home, watching your friend’s children or allowing your children to play with their cousins or the children of your closest friend? What level of social interaction is currently considered safe?

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink says the answer to those questions may vary from household to household and will depend on the risk factors of everyone living in them.

Generally, and according to the state’s mandates, Alaskans are expected to keep at least 6 feet from all non-household members. However, in some cases, if a stronger support network is needed, Alaskans may begin to expand their social circle to include just a few others.

As we begin to socialize more, Zink said it may be helpful for Alaskans to consider a concept called an expanded social bubble, already in use in New Zealand and some Canadian provinces. The idea behind this concept is that a household may choose to expand slightly to link with one other individual, couple or household if it is deemed mutually beneficial and agreeable to everyone involved.  

“This is something that other countries and communities are trying out, as a way of providing added social support while continuing to limit most social interactions,” Zink said.

Once linked, the individuals within an expanded social bubble can visit each other’s homes, share meals, care for one another, help with home projects or go on recreational outings together. Children within that enlarged bubble may play with each other in close proximity, indoors or outdoors.

Outside that trusted bubble, all household members still must keep at least six feet apart from non-household members. Another important point is that once a household has expanded its bubble to include others, the members within that bubble need to remain consistent. You should not choose to include two new members one week, and then substitute one of those members for someone else the following week.

“Consistency is key,” Zink said. “Expanding your bubble, even to include just one or two others, is not something to be done lightly. Alaskans have done a tremendous job since late March preventing the spread of COVID-19 by limiting their social interactions. That needs to continue, but we recognize that if people have more social support, limiting other social interactions will be easier to maintain as COVID-19 continues to be of concern in our communities.”

Joining with another household or just one or two individuals allows parents and caregivers to take turns caring for children, provides children with more opportunities to play and socialize with other children, and will help ease loneliness and provide improved social support for those who have felt isolated.

Mike Abbott, chief executive officer with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, said he expects this model could prove beneficial to the mental health of Alaskans. “Alaskans are showing considerable resilience under extremely difficult circumstances, but this adjustment, done correctly, could represent a great way to relieve stress and anxiety for Alaskans who have been feeling alone or isolated,” Abbott said. “It provides Alaskans with options to help build a stronger network of support.”

If Alaskans choose to expand their social bubble, they will need to first consider their risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Those most at risk, such as those 65 or older or people with an ongoing health condition will need to be the most restrictive, keeping their bubbles as tight as possible to prevent spreading infection into the group.

The larger the group, the more socialization can occur, but with that comes added risk. If one person in the group becomes sick, that person will need to be isolated from the remainder of the household and everyone else who is not ill will need to remain quarantined, assuming close contacts occurred with the sick individual.  

Dr. Zink is also urging Alaskans to voluntarily keep track of their social interactions. An explanation of the bubble concept and a sample tracking worksheet are attached to this press release and are also available online.  For a more detailed explanation of this concept, please read today’s Play Every Day Blog that features a Q and A with Dr. Zink.

Sitka Unified Command Stresses Hygiene and Social Distancing Amidst Lifting of Hunker Down

SITKA, May 15, 2020 – The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), the City and Borough of Sitka (CBS), Sitka Fire Department, Sitka School District (SSD), Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) and public health officials continue to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, May 12, the City and Borough of Sitka Assembly Emergency Ordinance No. 2020-14, requiring all people arriving in Sitka, whether by vessel or aircraft, to self‐quarantine for 14 days, was rescinded, and Resolutions 2020-06 and 2020-08 ordering residents to hunker down were lifted. These changes result in the reopening of many businesses and group gatherings.

The Sitka Unified Command recommends residents continue to; adhere to all state and federal mandates regarding travel, social distancing of 6 feet from others, and good hygiene – wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, remain at home when sick, wear face coverings when in public, and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces on a regular basis.

For both employers and employees, there may be uncertainty and anxiety around reopening a business. Having plans in place can help to alleviate concerns. Public health officials are available to provide guidance to businesses on reopening. To reach the Sitka Public Health Nurse, call 747-3255.

City Hall and other municipal buildings reopened this week and feature new measures to stop the spread of germs, including plexiglass barriers and thorough cleaning and sterilization. For some departments appointments are required—this is to ensure compliance with all Federal (including OSHA), State, and local regulations. When entering municipal buildings, customers are asked to follow posted social distancing guidelines and are encouraged to wear a face covering. For information on hours of operation for each department, visit www.cityofsitka.com or contact 747‐1818 to be routed to a specific department.

All SEARHC facilities are open and feature protocols to ensure patient safety, such as; pre-screening patients by phone, making waiting areas social distance friendly, enhancing on-site disinfection, requiring face masking of all patients and staff, and testing all SEARHC employees.

For health questions or COVID concerns, please call the COVID hotline at 966.8799 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Outside of normal clinic hours, patients can contact the SEARHC 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 1.800.613.0560 to be triaged by a registered nurse. 

Additional information on COVID‐19 is available through the Alaska Department of Health and 

Social Services (DHSS) at https://covid19.alaska.gov/, SEARHC at www.covid19.searhc.org, and 

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019‐nCoV/index.html

Residents are encouraged to prepare for any local emergency by ensuring each family member has a 14‐ day emergency supply kit, including any necessary medications. 

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Four new cases of COVID-19 reported in two Alaska communities

May 14, 2020 ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today announced four new cases of COVID-19 in Anchorage (3) and Tok (1). This brings the total Alaska case count to 387.

These cases reflect data from 12:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on May 13 that posted at noon today on the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub.

Of the new cases three are male and one is female. One is aged 50-59; two are aged 70-79 and one is aged 80+. There have been a total of 39 hospitalizations and 10 deaths with one new hospitalization and no deaths reported yesterday. Recovered cases now total 339, including one new recovered case recorded yesterday. A total of 31,762 tests have been conducted.

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Reopening Reminder from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Alaska is reopening and it may be tempting to return to your pre-COVID-19 routines and habits as we start eating at our favorite restaurants, hitting the gym, or picking up a book at the library. But remember, that as we find our new normal, we must do so cautiously so we continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Keep using preventative measures including washing your hands, wearing a cloth face mask when you are out in public, and staying 6 feet away from others outside your household. As you socialize more, be thoughtful of your interactions. Maintain a small social circle for now, especially if your circle includes individuals at high risk for serious illness.

For more information about COVID-19: coronavirus.alaska.gov.

Rescinded: Emergency Ordinance 2020-14

On May 12, the City and Borough of Sitka Assembly rescinded Emergency Ordinance 2020-14, requiring all people arriving in Sitka to self-quarantine for 14 days and requiring critical workforce infrastructure businesses to submit a protection plan to the City and Borough of Sitka.

THE FOLLOWING STATE OF ALASKA TRAVEL MANDATES ARE IN EFFECT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE:

International and Interstate Travel:
Per State of Alaska Health Mandate 10 on International and Interstate Travel, all travelers into Alaska are required to self-quarantine for 14-days and monitor for illness. This Mandate is in effect until further notice. After your arrival, you will need to fill out the mandatory State of Alaska Travel Declaration form online and identify your quarantine location (your home or lodging in Alaska). Those under quarantine cannot visit any public spaces and cannot allow visitors. If you are returning to a home where others live, other household members will not be required to quarantine with you but are expected to keep at least six feet away at all times.

For frequently asked questions on the mandates visit: covid19.alaska.gov/faq/

For more information on Health Mandate 10 visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-mandates/

For the travel declaration form (online form): ready.alaska.gov/Form

Travel within Alaska:
Per State of Alaska Health Mandate 18, travel between communities located on the road system and/or the Alaska Marine Highway System is permitted for all purposes. Note: travelers may travel between the Road System and Marine Highway System communities via any normal means of transportation, including vehicle, boat, ferry, aircraft, and commercial air carrier.

For more information on Health Mandate 18 visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-mandates/

Questions? Please contact the Public Information Officer at pio@cityofsitka.org or 747-1899.