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.

Credit: NIAID-RML

Updated 7:18 p.m.: Alaska's count of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 69 as of 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, according to the Department of Health and Social Services, with two new cases each in Fairbanks and North Pole.

The 10 new cases statewide also include five more cases in the Anchorage area and one new case in Juneau.

The Department of Health and Social Services clarifies in a note attached to its daily update that community counts do not necessarily reflect the location in which a case was contracted or a person was tested.

A second employee of Foundation Health Partners has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from Fairbanks Memorial Hospital late Wednesday. The foundation, which operates the hospital, received the confirmed results after announcing a first positive test of an employee earlier in the day.

The first hospital employee who tested positive received his results Monday and has been isolating at home since. The second, newly confirmed employee came into close contact with the first employee outside of the workplace and presumably contracted the disease that way, the foundation asserts.

Foundation Health Partners, in conjunction with state epidemiology, has traced the interactions and movements of both individuals and anyone who may have come into close contact with either patient.

The hospital stated it is taking “aggressive” measures to protect patients and employees from the spread of the virus.

Additionally, the foundation announced Thursday that it cared for its first in-patient case of COVID-19 in a woman under the age of 40 who has since been discharged and is self-quarantining at home.

The woman was being followed by the state health department due to concerns over potential contact with another COVID-19 patient, the hospital noted in a Thursday afternoon press briefing.

"The health department had requested that we test this particular patient, and she was tested through our drive-thru functionality," said Dr. Angelique Ramirez, Foundation Health Partners' quality medical director. "[The] patient continued to be followed by the health department. At the time that the patient had increased symptoms, the patient was admitted and cared for and everything went appropriately."

That case was one of the three COVID-19 related hospitalizations the health department has listed on its website.

Of the 10 new cases reported Thursday, four were male and six were female. One individual who tested positive was under the age of 18, two between the ages of 19 and 29, five were between the ages of 30 and 59, and two were over the age of 60.

In beginning her roundup of new cases in the state Thursday evening, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink took a moment to acknowledge that the United States surpassed the total case count in China — where the disease originated — in reporting more than 85,000 cases.

In Alaska, more than 2,400 tests have been performed among the state's two labs in Fairbanks and Anchorage as well as commercial labs where samples are outsourced.

In Fairbanks, local health officials report a daily increase in testing with the Tanana Valley Clinic's drive-thru station testing 25 people Wednesday.

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

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