Novel coronavirus

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.


Since Gov. Mike Dunleavy implemented the final phase in his plan to reopen the state at the end of May, Alaska's percentage of active COVID-19 cases in state residents has jumped more than 40% –– from 10% on May 22 to about 51% Monday.

A total of 30 new cases of the disease were confirmed Monday; 28 of these are state residents and two are nonresidents.

Just days after the Anchorage Health Department published a list of more than 15 local bars linked to COVID-19 outbreaks, the Municipality of Anchorage led the latest case count with 19 new residents testing positive for the disease.

Five of the 28 new resident cases are Fairbanks North Star Borough residents — three from Fairbanks and two from North Pole. This brings the local borough case total to 172, about 48% of which remain active.

The other four resident cases are from Kenai, Seward, Sterling and Wasilla.

One out-of-state worker in an unknown industry in Juneau and one other nonresident have tested positive for the disease, bringing the total number of nonresidents to have tested positive while in the state of Alaska to 237. It remains unknown how many of those cases remain active.

A passenger on the Alaska Marine Highway vessel M/V Kennicott has tested positive, according to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

The individual is a nonresident who boarded the ferry in Bellingham, Washington after testing negative for the disease. The individual's traveling partner also tested negative, according to the Cordova Medical Response Team who confirmed the positive test in the traveler.

A repeat test on the infected individual's traveling partner showed a negative result, as did the subsequent 52 tests on the vessel's crew.

No other passengers on the vessel were considered at risk of infection, according to DOT.

"The passenger and traveling companion had private sleeping quarters and whenever they were outside of their cabin, wore face coverings and kept 6 feet from others at all times during their time aboard," a Sunday DOT press release read.

The passenger left the vessel in Whittier and Cordova, but health officials have determined that both communities are at low risk.

The ferry system recently implemented strict universal masking policies for all passengers and crew members. Additionally, passenger capacity has been reduced to one-third vessel capacity and all passengers are required to participate in a health screening prior to boarding.

Cordova health officials say contact tracing for the individual was easy because they followed proper social distancing and masking protocols.

Statewide contact tracing is facing difficulties, however, according to Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, who noted on her official Twitter account that the state's contact tracers are overwhelmed by the number of new cases and the expanding social circles within which the virus can be spread.

Dunleavy issued a statement through his official Twitter account Monday afternoon urging Alaskans to keep their social circles small.

"The COVID-19 outbreak is far from over. Just as Alaskans did during the '18 earthquake, '19 wildfires, and countless times before lookout and care for your fellow Alaskans. Keep your circles small and wear a mask when you can't social distance. This small action may save a life," the governor wrote.

Last week, leading into the Fourth of July weekend, Dunleavy encouraged Alaskans to "get together" to celebrate the holiday, quickly adding "at a little bit of a distance."

The governor has acknowledged mask-wearing as key to limiting germ spread but has said he will not implement a mandate requiring public masking unless something dramatically changes.

Two new hospitalizations were reported Monday, bringing the cumulative number of Alaskans to have been hospitalized due to the disease to 74.

The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association reporters that 16 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 are currently hospitalized, which is the largest number reported thus far. Nine others are hospitalized who are under investigation for the disease but await test results, according to state health department data.

No new deaths were reported Monday, keeping the total number of Alaskans whose deaths were related to COVID-19 at 16 with the most recent death announced last week.

The state has confirmed more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska in the last five days.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.