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

UPDATE: The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities released more information about the man who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. He is a foreign national who developed a fever and respiratory symptoms shortly after arriving in Anchorage on March 11 on a cargo flight.

He contacted his doctor and went to Alaska Regional Hospital for testing. 

Cargo flights are separate from passenger flights, according to DOT. Cargo crewmembers never come into contact with general passengers and do not access the main terminal. Cargo crewmembers are cleared through U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the Anchorage North Terminal. 

Cargo is not considered a health risk, the Centers for Disease Control has noted. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.


5 p.m. Thursday:  Alaska has confirmed its first case of COVID-19 this afternoon, according to Gov. Mike Dunleavy who met with reporters earlier this evening. 

"This is no reason to panic, no reason to get upset," Dunleavy said. "We're going to have more cases as time goes on. I believe Alaska is equipped to deal with this situation."

Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink told reporters the state will be sending the lab samples to the Centers for Disease Control headquarters for confirmation.

"This is the day we've all been prepared for but hoping we wouldn't see," Zink said.

Zink confirmed the individual was an adult male foreign national who was otherwise healthy and was traveling through Alaska by air travel and followed "proper protocols" in reporting his symptoms and self-isolating.

The Alaska epidemiology team is investigating where the individual had traveled prior to reporting his symptoms and who he may have come into contact with.

That includes everywhere the individual may have been within the last 14 days, every person the patient may have came into contact with.

The patient came into Alaska through the Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport within the last 48 hours, received a test at Alaska Regional Hospital and still remains isolated in Anchorage, according to Zink.

Zink confirmed the patient is stable, has been discharged from the hospital and moved to state-organized housing and is not in imminent danger. Zink would not provide additional information on the individual.

"Part of that is treating each other with kindness and respect ... We owe it to this person to respect their privacy," she said.

The governor urged the public not the panic.

"This is not the end of the world," Dunleavy said, noting he felt the state was adequately prepared. "This is not a surprise. We expect more cases and more positives."

Currently, there are additional limits on public gatherings or other public mandates from the governor's office.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced a state of emergency for the Municipality of Anchorage earlier today and the Anchorage School District has closed public schools for the next week. The University of Alaska, including the Anchorage campus, has extended spring break and is in the process of transferring as many classes as possible online to maintain social distancing.

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