Eight more cases of COVID in Anchorage Pioneer Home reported

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. Credit: NIAID-RML.

The state announced that eight more cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the Anchorage Pioneer Home, bringing the case count associated with the state-run senior living facility to 12.

According to today’s announcement, seven elders have tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the total number of elders at the facility with COVID-19 to 10. The state reports that there has been no hospitalization of residents at this time.

All residents of the home, which has capacity for 168 seniors, have been tested but results have not all been returned yet. The cases seem to be largely focused in one senior living unit at the center, though one resident in a separate unit has also tested positive.

Two employees have tested positive.

The Anchorage Pioneer Home has been closed to visitors since March 17, but the state has pushed ahead with reopening other pioneer homes to visitors. It reopened the Fairbanks Pioneer Home to visitors before reversing course as cases in the community spiked.

The announcement lays out several heightened safety procedures, noting that residents and employees will be tested on a weekly basis until further notice.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink praised the facility’s leadership in handling the outbreak.

“It always causes us great concern when this virus makes its way into our vulnerable populations, which is why I appreciate the swift and responsive actions taken at the home to ensure all affected residents and staff are receiving proper care and monitoring,” she said in a prepared statement.

Not everyone has been as thrilled about the state’s handling of COVID-19 in state-run facilities, and several legislators, economists and health workers have called on the state to implement consistent, statewide measures requiring masks where social distancing isn’t feasible and other measures.

“Choosing between a healthy economy and a healthy population is a false dichotomy. We cannot have one without the other,” wrote House Health and Social Services Committee Chair Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky in a letter to the state last week. “Alaska is at a critical time to change course. We must work to mitigate high-risk activities that pose enhanced risk of COVID-19 spread. We need your bold leadership to enact a statewide comprehensive and consistent COVID-19 mitigation plan, and soon. … While we appreciate the wide spectrum of unique needs across our state, and the intent to tailor policies to specific populations, at the end of this public health emergency we will be measured by our outcomes and not the intent. Ultimately, Alaska’s public health and economic outcomes will depend on whether clear and decisive action was taken by the State during this difficult time.”

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