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

An Alaskan has died from COVID-19, according to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who made the announcement in a Tuesday evening call with reporters.

The deceased was an Alaska resident over age 60 who had acquired the virus outside of Alaska and died in Washington state –– one of the nation's COVID-19 hotspots –– Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink told reporters.

When asked why a COVID-19 death in Washington related to a case acquired in Washington counted as an Alaska case, Zink cited Centers for Disease Control regulations but did not elaborate on details.

Alaska's confirmed number of COVID-19 cases has risen to 42 from Monday's 36, including two more in Fairbanks, bringing the community total to nine, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. Zink said one of the people recently diagnosed is hospitalized in Alaska and "quite ill." 

The governor once again emphasized the need to practice social distancing and even went so far as to note that the next two weeks are a critical time to do so, but fell short of issuing a shelter-in-place mandate which Fairbanks leadership and health officials across the state are pleading for. 

"You can put restrictions in place. But individual Alaskans have to take this seriously," Dunleavy said, noting he wants to trust Alaskans to take his advice rather than issue regulations. "That's worth a lot more than an edict from the government that may or may not be followed."

Zink explained that part of the reason behind resisting a shelter-in-place mandate was that exercise and being outside are important for health, saying that other state mandates restricted that. 

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has issued a "hunker down" mandate across his municipality, which allowed residents to leave their homes for essential services such as groceries and health care and to exercise outside. 

City of Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly has expressed a desire for a similar mandate to include Fairbanks but cites that he lacks the power as a city mayor to do so.

The cases announced Tuesday include one new case in Juneau, two new cases in Fairbanks, one new case in Sterling and two new cases in Ketchikan.

Of the six new cases, one individual is between the ages of 19-29, three are between the ages of 30-59 and two are over the age of 60.

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