Update, 2:30 p.m.: This post has been updated with additional information from the Department of Health and Social Services.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services today reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in Alaska residents, bringing the statewide total to 487 cases with 106 active cases.
Since Gov. Mike Dunleavy OK’d the full reopening of Alaska on May 22 urging Alaskans to be responsible with limiting the spread of the virus, the state has seen several spikes including an outbreak at transitional health care facility in Anchorage. In just the last three days, the state has reported 45 new cases of COVID-19 or nearly 10% of the state’s total cases.
Today’s report shows 15 new cases in Anchorage, three in the city of Kenai, one in Homer and one in Nikiski. Non-resident case are counted separately, and yet another case has been identified today in a seafood industry worker in the Valdez-Cordova census area, bringing the non-resident case count to 22 (14 of which are in the seafood industry).
Of today’s new cases, five are from the Providence Transitional Care Center in East Anchorage, according to the Anchorage Daily news, where an outbreak among patients and caregivers was identified over the weekend. The five new cases bring the center’s case total to 23.
The most alarming new case is that of a youth recently admitted to the McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage. The state announced that the youth has been isolated for treatment and that testing of all newly admitted youth has been conducted since April 28 with newly admitted youth undergoing a 14-day quarantine. The announcement says the state is working with state epidemiologists to “promptly determine which staff and residents should receive testing.”
Civil rights advocates and corrections officers have repeatedly warned that Alaska’s criminal justice system is at high-risk of an outbreak and underprepared. At a legislative hearing last week, state officials said they had declined offers for testing in correctional centers because they felt it wasn’t needed at the time. A corrections union official accused the state of rejecting the offer in order to keep numbers down.
While the new spikes have largely been focused in residents of Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, once a hotspot of the virus, has not reported a new case since May 9.
Over the weekend, Dunleavy said the increase in cases was expected with the reopening.
“We are not panicked,” he said Sunday but didn’t rule out the possibility that a new “hunker down” order could be issued if “something is really going sideways.”
Though Dunleavy has called on Alaskans to be responsible and maintain public health measures like social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings, he was photographed without a face mask covering, shaking hands at an outdoor Memorial Day event.