Alaska has its first confirmed case of COVID-19, a disease caused by a new coronavirus that emerged from China in late 2019, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Thursday.
Speaking at an evening press conference in Anchorage, the governor said it was no surprise considering the spread of the virus throughout the rest of the country.
State of Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the confirmed case was a foreign national transiting through Alaska. The individual was aware of the symptoms and contacted medical professions when they became concerned they may have been exposed. Zink did not say where the individual was from but did say they had arrived by flight, though she would not say whether it was a commercial flight.
Officials were working to figure out the details of the individual’s travel and where they had been. Zink confirmed the patient was an adult man and had traveled through Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage. The patient was still in Anchorage, Zink said.
“This is a person who had been traveling quite a bit internationally, very recently come to Alaska,” Zink said. “This is a person with very little exposure in Alaska. This is not someone who was wandering the community.”
Chief Medical Officer at Alaska Regional Hospital Keri Gardner said the exposure took place in a controlled setting.
“We were prepared for taking care of this individual when they arrived at the emergency room,” Gardner said.
The patient called their medical provider, Gardner said, who advised that they contact the hospital. The patient was currently in a stable condition, she said.
Zink said the man’s diligence to self-monitor and then self-isolate demonstrated the importance of education in containing the virus.
The person, “did an amazing job,” in self-isolating, Zink said, and there was a team working on where he had traveled. Zink would not say if the man had gone to a hotel, but did say if they felt anyone needed to be notified they would be and if any specific locations needed to be identified they would be.
The man has been discharged from the hospital and the state was working on housing that person in a safe area, Zink said. How long the patient will remain in Anchorage is an open question, the patient will be isolated and it’s possible the patient will be transported out of the state, she said.
Zink said they wanted to protect the person’s privacy and state officials wanted to avoid stigmatizing patients.
“We continue to work with our protocols,” Dunleavy said. “No reason to panic, no reason to get upset. I believe Alaska is well equipped to deal with this situation.”
Dunleavy said the state had been notified about the case roughly two hours before the press conference began at 5 p.m.
Officials had said in the previous days the coronavirus was likely to appear in Alaska. On Wednesday the governor issued an emergency declaration and the Legislature passed a bill containing emergency funding.
People with questions or concerns can visit the state’s coronavirus website, coronavirus.alaska.gov or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.