Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Thursday, April 9, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Thursday, April 9, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)

8th Alaskan dies of COVID-19, Kenai reports its 3rd case

11 new cases reported Friday, bringing state total to 246

A Fairbanks woman died this morning at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Her death, tied to COVID-19, marks the eighth death of an Alaska resident overall, as the state’s total case count climbed to 246 on Friday.

The Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner reported the woman’s death Friday. She was 73 years old and had underlying health conditions, according to Foundation Health Partners, the organization that runs the hospital, the outlets reported.

Her death was not included in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services report on Friday, because that report is made each day at noon and reflects the previous 24-hour period from midnight to 11:59 p.m.

The state did report 11 new COVID-19 cases on Friday: three in the Anchorage area, three in Fairbanks, one in North Pole, one in Juneau, one in Wasilla, one in Palmer and one in Kenai.

This is Kenai’s third reported case and brings the total number of cases associated with Kenai Peninsula residents to 15. One of those 15 cases is a Homer resident who was tested and treated in Anchorage, and one of those 15 cases was an Anchor Point resident who died out of state.

A cumulative total of 28 people have now been hospitalized for the disease. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said during a Friday press conference that there are only 12 people currently being hospitalized. The cumulative number includes people who have since died or since recovered and gone home.

A total of 55 people have now recovered from COVID-19, DHSS reports. The state has tested 7,432 people for the novel coronavirus so far, Zink reported.

The Juneau case reported Friday is a correctional officer working at Lemon Creek Correction Center, the state announced and the Juneau Empire reported. The State Epidemiology team is working to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the disease by the correctional officer in order to notify and quarantine them, the Empire reported. Zink confirmed this during Friday’s press conference.

The state of Alaska and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium both obtained supplies of rapid testing machines from Abbott Laboratories — the state got 50 and ANTHC got 40. The consortium has already distributed its machines to tribal organizations and communities, mostly in rural areas of Alaska.

Zink said Friday that the state is still working on distributing its supply of the rapid test machines to communities around Alaska. When asked whether the state would consider sending a rapid test machine to each of the state’s correctional facilities, given the case of the correctional officer testing positive at Lemon Creek and the importance of being able to know quickly whether the disease is spreading in a closed system like a prison, Zink said the machines are able to be redeployed where necessary.

“There’s all these tools, and we’re gaining more tools every day on the way that we can fight this disease, and the Abbott test is one of those,” she said. “… It can be done quickly. Everyone wants to know the answer quickly and there’s some real reason, particularly like you mentioned in a correctional facility, to be able to do that.”

Health care facilities are another place where it can be very helpful to have quick test results, Zink said.

“So we initially distributed them to kind of brace us and to kind of bridge us while we were trying to get more of the hospital ones up and running,” she said. “And the hope is to then redeploy those to more rural areas, and/or to facilities like prisons, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, where we need kind of a rapid test that they may not be able to otherwise do.”

Dr. Robert Onders, medical director for ANTHC, emphasized the importance of giving rural Alaska communities the power to carry out localized testing in a timely manner.

“You have to have rural, locally based testing ability,” he said. “… The more locally based testing that we can quickly apply, the more likely we can control the spread in these communities.”

The state reported that, last week, a staff member at McLaughlin Youth Center within the DHSS Division of Juvenile Justice tested positive for COVID-19.

“Testing of staff and youth at the facility was completed last Sunday and results have been returned,” a press release from DHSS said. “No positive cases were found as a result of the testing. Operations have resumed, with no one needing isolation to prevent the spread of illness and all staff returning to work.”

Also on Friday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum announced the suspension of a number of fees and fines from multiple state departments in order to provide some relief and flexibility as businesses and residents continue to cope with the altered living situation the novel coronavirus has caused.

The disaster order suspends fees, fines and requirements including onsite inspection requirements for birth centers, in-person requirements for Office of Children’s Services visits, the requirement to submit a certificate of need to increase bed capacity at a facility, and nearly 70 different types of corporate filing fees within the Department of Commerce.

The full order and list of suspensions can be found at https://gov.alaska.gov/newsroom/2020/03/31/governor-announces-progress-on-alaska-covid-19-economic-stabilization-plan/.

The suspension of the fees, fines and regulations is effective through May 11.

Locally, South Peninsula Hospital reported Friday morning that it has sent 110 samples off to be tested. Of those, 91 tests have come back negative and 18 are still pending. The hospital has had only one positive test so far.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

More in News

A boat is lifted out of the water at Northern Enterprises Boat Yard on Kachemak Drive. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Northern Enterprise Boat Yard expands business

Northern Enterprises Boat Yard, Inc., the largest privately owned dry dock marina… Continue reading

Krista Schooley (left) testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education on Monday, June 7, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Screenshot)
A ‘groundswell’: Conservative coalition seeks to expand influence on school policy

The vision of KPCCC is to “restructure and build the foundation of the 7 Mountains of Influence in our society through conservative action.”

Setnetters make their way back to the beach near a site on July 11, 2016 near Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)
Personal-use setnetting opening Tuesday on Kasilof

The hours for fishing in the restricted area of the Kasilof River on Tuesday are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
‘A lot of work to do’: Officials hope for summer bounce in vaccinations

Zink said just six months ago she didn’t think the state would have as much vaccine stock as it does now.

A map shows the location of the Loon Lake Fire. (Photo from AK Fire Info).
Flight restriction issued over Loon Lake Fire, now 15% contained

The fire was first reported on Saturday evening.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, talks during an interview in the Empire's offices. During the conversation, Young discussed ongoing infrastructure bill negotiations, the Arctic's strategic importance to the U.S. and why he's seeking a 26th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
The Empire sits down with Rep Young

We hit some of the wavetops of Young’s recent work.

The Alaska Grown logo.
Homer Farmers Market: Don’t forget Wednesday market

Food Hub also is an option for locally grown food.

A sign and road blocker at the head of the Hidden Creek Trail on Skilak Lake Road warns people about bear activity on Sunday, June 13, 2021 in Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Campers kayak to safety after Skilak bear attack

They were at the mouth of Hidden Creek along the shoreline of Skilak Lake

Most Read