COVID-19 cases go up as Alaska reopens

A spike in COVID-19 cases accompanied the reopening of the State of Alaska. Cases all over the U.S. have gone up since loosening restrictions due to the current pandemic.

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

Cases increased amid the full reopening of Alaska by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The state went through a four-phase plan of reopening, that started from a “Hunker Down” order to loosening restrictions based on a growing or lessening trend of COVID-19 cases. Alaska fully reopened on May 22, with all businesses accessible to residents. Recommendations for face masks and social distancing remain.

Seventeen new positive cases popped up on Wednesday, May 10, making the highest case count of COVID-19 in Alaska so far, according to Anchorage Daily News. The total case count for positive tests that are not yet recovered is 190 as of May 12, the next highest count was 186, recorded in early April. In total, 611 Alaskans tested positive for the virus, and there are 12 deaths so far.

The new cases on Wednesday occurred as two in Juneau, four in Anchorage, one in Kodiak, two in Homer, one in Palmer, one in Soldotna, one in the Northwest Arctic Borough, one in Fairbanks, two in North Pole and two in Sitka. New cases are statewide and there is the concern of cluster cases such as  in Anchorage like the outbreak at The Providence Extended Care Facility, Matsu, Kenai and one of the state’s ferries, the Tustumena, according to Alaska’s chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zinc.

New cases since June 12 are associated with Memorial Day celebrations, according to Anchorage Daily News, as the virus has 4 days to a two-week incubation period. The Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, reports that 97.5% of people with COVID-19 who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days of SARS-CoV-2 infection. There are 2,016,027 total cases in the United States and 113,914 active cases, according to the CDC.

“As we’re doing interviews, it appears to be that these seem to be linked — at least some cases — into clusters relating to some large celebrations that happened,” Zink said. “It’s impressive when we see this disease, how sneaky it can be and it can really spread amongst larger groups of people — 20, 30, 40 people getting together for a celebration, spreading, and then people going to work sick and how it can spread from there,” said Dr. Zink in a press briefing on May 31st.

Out of state travel is also now permitted in and out of Alaska, with restrictions. Travelers are no longer required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Alaska as long as they get tested within 5 days of travel for COVID-19 and test negative. Travelers will also be asked to minimize in-person contact for 7-14 days after arriving in Alaska and will be offered a follow-up test upon departure. Test results will be asked upon arrival or a test will be conducted.

- Advertisement -

Though most businesses are now fully open without limit to capacity, health safety measures are still encouraged, such as wearing face masks, constant hand washing and social distancing. Some large gathering events have been canceled in Alaska, due to outbreak concerns, such as The Alaska State Fair but alternative events have been offered to accommodate COVID-19 concerns. The Alaska State Fair, for example, has pop-up drive-in theater events all summer at the Alaska State Fairgrounds where the fair is usually held.

For more information about COVID-19 updates in Alaska, visit the Alaska COVID-19 Information Hub. For a presentation about travel restrictions, view a presentation offered by Dr. Zink and for information about COVID-19 and UAA, go to The University of Alaska COVID-19 Information Page.