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

After temporarily closing due to a confirmed COVID-19 case discovered among the male residents of the facility, the Fairbanks Rescue Mission announced Wednesday it is opening again and will be accepting new residents. 

The facility closed earlier this month after a case was discovered among one of the male residents of the facility. At that time, widespread testing of all residents and frontline staff was conducted, yielding two positive cases of the 49 tests performed — results that the Mission called “encouraging.”

“We are very aware that a facility like this could be ground zero for a larger outbreak,” Fairbanks Rescue Mission Director Pete Kelly said in a statement. “As a result, we have put protocols in place for the safety of our guests, our staff and the community at large.”

One of the positive cases was an individual who was already in quarantine at the time and has since left the facility, a Wednesday press release from the center explained. 

The other positive case was isolated from other guests and remains currently. 

At the request of the Mission, public health officials and Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink visited last Tuesday to discuss protocols. 

“Dr. Zink and her time assured us we were acting correctly in our efforts to thwart and contain the virus at the facility,” Kelly said. “We had a full testing team here from Beacon Health the next day and since then we have been designated to do our own testing onsite. Without the ability to test it would be very difficult to stay ahead of the curve on this thing.”

The facility is now open to the public and admitting new guests who will be tested and separated from others until test results come back. 

The Rescue Mission will also perform regular testing of all guests and staff throughout the year. 

The possibility of COVID-19 outbreaks among Fairbanks’ homeless population is of particular concern has many of these individuals lack facilities to maintain hygiene, shower and wash clothing.

These facilities are available at the Rescue Mission, one of the community’s only homeless shelters, which houses both women and men who are currently experiencing homelessness. Residency is limited, however, to individuals who do not have substance use disorders, leaving many in Fairbanks unhoused.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics

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