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 6:40 p.m. Alaska has seen its third death related to COVID-19, according to a daily tally kept by the Department of Health and Social Services, and two Fairbanks health practices are closed through April 2 due to links to 15 Fairbanks area cases.

The latest victim was a 73-year-old Anchorage resident. The patient was tested on March 23 and admitted to an Anchorage hospital and died Saturday evening, according to a department news release.

This is the second in-state death in the last week, with the previous case belonging to an Anchorage woman who died Friday at Alaska Native Medical Center. The first death was that of an Alaska resident who contracted the disease outside the state and died earlier this month in Washington state.

Statewide confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to increase, with the daily count reaching 114 as of Sunday afternoon, according to the department.

The state Section on Epidemiology has identified that a cluster of Fairbanks area COVID-19 cases are all connected to two medical practices in the building at 3745 Geist Road, which houses McKinley Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and ATI Physical Therapy, according to a news release sent to the Daily News-Miner by health department spokesman Clinton Bennett.

As of Sunday afternoon, state epidemiology links 15 of Fairbanks and North Pole’s collective 28 cases to these practices.

According to state epidemiology, the earliest exposure date for a confirmed Fairbanks area case was March 9 and the most recent was March 19.

The two practices are cooperating with public health officials in the investigation, and the practices will be closed through April 2 –– two weeks after the latest linked exposure.

State epidemiologists and public health nurses have contacted people who have been shown to be close contacts to the confirmed cases at the two medical practicies. However, the health department is urging anyone who has spent time at these practices or with practice staff between March 9 and March 19 to self-monitor for symptoms, including a fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Among the 12 new cases since Saturday, Fairbanks saw an increase of four cases and North Pole had one additional case.

Five of the new cases are older adults over the age of 60, two are individuals between the ages of 30 and 59, four are individuals between the ages of 19 and 29 and one is under the age of 18.

Six of the patients are female and six are male.

Six of the new cases are considered "close contact," meaning the newly diagnosed individuals had been close to previously diagnosed cases. One is travel-related and the remaining five are still under investigation, according to the department.

The other communities that saw new cases Sunday include Anchorage with four new cases, Eagle River with one new case, Juneau with one new case and Ketchikan with one new case.

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

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