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.


Updated 7:35 p.m.: The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Alaska has increased to 36 as of Monday evening with four new cases confirmed since Sunday, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. Additionally, Alaska has seen its first confirmed cases of community spread of COVID-19 in four individuals who have recently tested positive.

All four of the new cases confirmed Monday are travel-related cases from the Anchorage area. Of those four cases, one is of a person between the ages 19 and 29, two are between the ages of 30 and 59 and one is of a person over age 60, according to state health officials.

Alaska saw 10 confirmed cases Sunday afternoon, seven from the Anchorage area, two from the Mat-Su area and one from Juneau. Of those, three were of the ages of 19 to29, five were between the ages of 30 and 59 and two were over age 60.

Four of Sunday's cases had no clear source and are considered "community spread" cases, according to Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink.

Of the 36 cases statewide, seven are from Fairbanks. There were no new cases confirmed in the Fairbanks area as of Monday evening.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the health department also introduced two new health mandates closing certain businesses, limiting crowd size and regulating traveler quarantine statewide.

The first mandate expands a mandate previously only directed to the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

As of Tuesday, March 24 at 5 p.m., all businesses, congregations or gatherings where individuals are closer than 6 feet of one another are ordered to close statewide. This includes hair salons, spas, nail salons, barbershops, tattoo shops, piercing shops, massage therapy businesses and tanning salons.

Additionally, there are to be no gatherings statewide of more than 10 people, and if a gathering does take place, all individuals must be no closer than 6 feet. The mandate will remain in place until further notice.

The second mandate introduced, Health Mandate 10, goes into effect Wednesday, March 25 at 12:01 a.m. and requires all people arriving in Alaska, whether residents or visitors, to self-quarantine for 14 days. This mandate will be reevaluated by April 21.

All those arriving in the state are ordered to proceed directly from the airport to their designated quarantine location, which must be listed on a mandatory State of Alaska Travel Declaration Form.

Travelers who are residents should quarantine at their permanent residence. Travelers who are visitors or workers should quarantine at a hotel room or rented lodging. All arriving individuals are required to quarantine for a full 14 days with the exception of medical emergencies or medical care. During this time of self-quarantine, individuals should not visit public spaces and should comply with all rules and protocols set out by the state regarding quarantine time and location.

The failure to follow this order is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000, or imprisonment of not more than one year, according to the mandate.

A group of 50 doctors from the Fairbanks area sent a letter to Alaska Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum encouraging a "shelter-in-place" or "stay-at-home" order for the Fairbanks area. When asked of the letter and whether he would consider such an order, Dunleavy noted he had been receiving similar urges from across the state and that, while he is not currently considering it, nothing is off the table.

Alaska has had more than 1,000 tests for COVID-19 performed, and health officials continue to see increased testing across the state, Zink noted. Medical providers performing the tests can choose whether to send the sample to an out-of-state private lab or two one of the two state labs, one of which is in Fairbanks. The state had little to no control as to when results from the out-of-state are returned, though, Zink added, noting that state labs are still able to turn around results typically within a day of receiving the sample.

Zink once again emphasized the need for residents to take the disease and government mandates seriously.

"We do know that the fate of all Alaskans is really in our hands at this time," she said. "And these mandates that have come in are really Alaska's version of shelter-in-place or stay at home."

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