The Fairbanks Correctional Center has lifted its suspension on visitors, and the Fairbanks Senior Center is preparing to resume communal meals, while other public institutions are maintaining full Covid-19 restrictions for now.
This comes after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its coronavirus guidance last week as case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths are falling after a January spike.
Under the new federal guidance, the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Covid-19 risk level is “low” with fewer than 200 new cases logged over the past seven days and fewer than 10% of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. By state metrics, the borough’s risk level continues to be shown as “high.” More than 100 new cases, for a population of 100,000 people, over seven days is considered high risk.
Reports from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services show 178 new coronavirus cases were logged in the Fairbanks borough between Feb. 18 and Feb. 25.
The state’s data dashboard shows three hospital beds in Interior Alaska were occupied with Covid-19 patients as of Sunday.
On Monday, the Fairbanks jail lifted its ban on visitation.
“There are currently no active Covid cases at FCC, and they came out of ‘outbreak status’ on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Visitation may resume,” spokeswoman Betsy Holley wrote in an email.
The Fairbanks Senior Center is undergoing some remodeling and Darlene Supplee, executive director, said the agency is setting up a temporary dining facility at the Shoppers Forum Mall. Congregate meals at the temporary location will resume in the coming weeks.
“We just finished painting and putting the flooring in,” Supplee said.
At Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, patients are allowed to have only one person visit them during their hospital stay. The rule stays in place for now, spokeswoman Kelly Atlee said.
“We are continuing to follow the CDC’s infection prevention and control recommendations for health care settings,” Atlee wrote in an email. “(Foundation Health Partner’s) Incident Command, Physician Advisory Committee and Executive Leadership Team actively monitor Covid transmission within the community and continually evaluate what mitigation measures can be modified as risk decreases. I’ll keep you informed of any changes.”
At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, protocols are strict with staff and students required to mask indoors, and in some cases they must be vaccinated.
When students test positive for the virus, they must isolate for 10 days unless granted special permission to reduce it to five. The CDC reduced its quarantine recommendation from 10 days to 5 days on Dec. 27, 2021.
“Decisions about isolation times — and other mitigation measures — are made based on a variety of factors and with an eye on ensuring a safe environment for our students and employees,” Marmian Grimes, the senior public information officer, wrote in an email. “Those factors include things like student and employee safety, community and campus case rates, availability of testing and unique characteristics of the higher education environment.”
She wrote that 34 students have been housed at Stevens Hall for isolation since Jan. 1.
“Students are able to use the kitchens and the common areas in the hall,” Grimes wrote. “Food is delivered to them there. Our Residence Life staff checks in with them to make sure they are doing OK both physically and mentally and to make sure they have what they need.”
In a Feb. 24 communication to faculty, staff and students, Chancellor Dan White said he anticipates Covid-19 restrictions to temper as cases fall and added that chancellors are seeking authority to create “mask-optional zones on campus where there is low risk.”
“My expectation is that we will see changes to our mask requirements and some other Covid measures in the coming weeks,” White wrote. “And next fall, I anticipate that we will resume all traditionally in-person classes and events and manage Covid as we manage other risks that impact health and safety.”
In K-12 public schools, masking is already optional unless there is an outbreak. The Fairbanks area school district’s virus case dashboard shows 10 of 36 public schools currently have between one and four known Covid-19 cases, and no masking is currently required.