With two additional COVID-19 cases being reported, Governor Michael Dunleavy announced Friday evening that the State is invoking additional mandates to protect the health of Alaskans.
Dunleavy says that they are hoping that social distancing will help defuse the spread of the coronavirus and slow it down, with compliance in the next month being critical to that effort.
Fairbanks and Ketchikan Stay Home. In his seventh mandate since the disease was first identified in an air cargo pilot that had stopped in Anchorage, the governor ordered the residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and Ketchikan Gateway Borough to limit all close contact with people outside of their family unit staring at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 21.
Hair and nail salons, day spas, tattoo parlors, body piercing, barber shops, massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic services, rolfing, reiki, esthetics locations, and tanning salons were specifically mandated to close. The prohibitions include home-delivered services.
No gathering of more than ten people will be allowed and at any gathering people must stay six feet away from each other, said Alaska Health Commissioner Adam Crum. Enforcement measures could range from losing licensure to being convicted of a misdemeanor, Crum said.
This mandate does not effect urgent, emergency and health care facilities, but patients need to call in advance to schedule an appointment so proper distance is maintained at healthcare facilities, according to state officials.
Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink says that the new Ketchikan case is most likely travel associated. Two previous cases were a married couple who had flown from Washington to Juneau and spent the night before continuing to Ketchikan.
Zink said that in addition to Ketchikan, Fairbanks is a community under close watch. The Fairbanks cases are still under investigation, with Zink citing the difficulty in determining how much contact people have had with their associations and activities in that area.
With fourteen positive cases in the state, Zink said we "cannot over estimate" how critical it is too slow down the spread of coronavirus at this juncture.
The numbers may be small but the virus is growing exponentially, Zink said, emphasizing the importance of social distancing as being critical to potentially saving thousands of lives.
Tests free but more swabs needed. With President Trump announcing earlier in the day that COVID-19 tests would be free of charge, Zink noted that currently only those who were exhibiting symptoms like fever and had risk factors should be tested.
Zink advised that the state had recently acquired two new testing machines, but was having difficulty sourcing an adequate swab supply. Zink notes that Anchorage was calling upon healthcare professionals from veterinarians to dentists to deliver their swabs to build up capacity.
Schools to stay closed. Dunleavy also announced Mandate 8, that public and private schools would remain closed until May 1. The Department of Education and Early Learning is working on creating distance delivery instruction, according to Dunleavy, a difficult task considering the disparity of resources available to student. All school activities will remain suspended.
For the latest information on COVID-19, visit coronavirus.alaska.gov.