Carlson Center

Updated 7:28 p.m.: Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered the Fairbanks North Star Borough to make the Carlson Center available as an overflow health facility as communities prepare for rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

An emergency order signed by Dunleavy on March 26 directs the borough to provide any logistical support requested by the state or the operators of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital “to manage, mitigate or otherwise address this public health crisis related to the spread of COVID-19.”

Dunleavy’s order states that COVID-19 has overwhelmed medical facilities nationwide and that there is a need to prevent a shortage of medical facilities in the Fairbanks borough.

A contract for use of the Carlson Center is under legal review, according to the public information officer for the Fairbanks North Star Borough, which owns the building and contracts with a management company for operations.

Medical officials visited the arena, host to concerts, comedians and the University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team, Wednesday afternoon for planning, according to Shelley Ebenal, CEO of Foundation Health Partners, which operates Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. She spoke during a Wednesday afternoon virtual news conference.

“I’d like to thank Mayor (Bryce) Ward for helping us with the Carlson Center and getting that in place,” Ebenal said. “Our team is over there right now for the alternative site and looking at how the work flows will work and how we can protect our community.”

Details about the hospital’s “surge plan” will be shared Friday, Ebenal said.

The visit to the Carlson Center came two days after Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the state’s epidemiology team is working “most aggressively” on the Fairbanks area because of two virus clusters that have arisen here.

Bassett Army Community Hospital on Fort Wainwright is standing by to help Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, according to a spokeswoman for MEDDAC-Alaska.

“While we have not been asked to assist Fairbanks Memorial Hospital at this time, we are standing by to support our community partners should the need arise in support of a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) mission assignment,” said Brandy Ostanik-Thornton, public affairs officer for MEDDAC-Alaska, in a prepared statement.

“Bassett Army Community Hospital and FMH have a long history of working together to provide care to the Fairbanks and Fort Wainwright communities,” she said. “We are in daily communication with FMH, as well as other partners in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, to ensure collectively we are able to provide COVID-19 support to the Golden Heart City.”

To activate Bassett, a request would need to be made to FEMA through the state of Alaska, according to Ostanik-Thornton.

“If the state validates the request, it would then be sent to FEMA,” she said in an email. “Ultimately, FEMA decides who to task to cover the mission.”

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough. Staff writer Erin McGroarty contributed to this story.