Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces the state of Alaska has its first positive case of the new coronavirus, during a news conference March 12, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces the state of Alaska has its first positive case of the new coronavirus, during a news conference March 12, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

Dunleavy aims to get state “back to normal”

Governor announces several changes aimed at reopening the Alaska economy.

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Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday announced that restaurants will now be able to send alcohol with their to-go and delivery orders, and health care providers will be allowed to perform elective procedures again.

During a press conference with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, Dunleavy said the changes are the first of several steps being taken to slowly reopen Alaska’s economy and “get back to normal” after health mandates issued by the state have forced all but essential industries to limit their operations.

“We’re not going to be able to get back there immediately, and in some respects, there may be some things that we don’t get back to,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy suspended certain statutes within the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to allow for the curbside pickup of alcohol from restaurants, breweries, distilleries and retail stores, as well as the delivery of sealed beer and wine from restaurants with food orders, according to a Tuesday press release from the Office of the Governor.

While most health care providers will be allowed to perform elective procedures, elective dental procedures are considered high risk and are not included in Tuesday’s announcement, Dunleavy said.

The decision to reopen certain aspects of the economy, Dunleavy said, stems from the state’s assessment that Alaska’s coronavirus outbreak may be more “manageable” than originally predicted, thanks in part to the various social distancing measures that were implemented by the state.

“Using the best tools and science that we have and watching what’s occurred elsewhere, we’re hoping that we’re entering into a phase where the situation is manageable,” Dunleavy said. “Alaska is better off if we open up these sectors sooner than later, monitor and manage it well.”

Dunleavy said that all decisions regarding reopening sectors of the economy would be constantly reassessed, and if it is determined that one of those decisions has led to a surge in new cases, the decision will be rescinded.

“We may be back here in four or five days,” Dunleavy said. “It’s a fluid process.”

A total of 285 Alaskans had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday at noon, with eight new cases reported at Tuesday night’s press conference. The eight new cases are residents of Anchorage (4), Girdwood (1), Craig (1), Juneau (1) and Wasilla (1).

In addition, the Department of Corrections issued a press release during the governor’s press conference to report that two more staff members at Lemon Creek Correctional Center had tested positive for the virus. Those two cases will be reflected in Wednesday’s case count for the state, and there are now six LCCC staff members who have tested positive. Dunleavy said, as of Tuesday, 31 DOC employees had been tested. Public Information Officer Sarah Gallagher said on Monday that 17 inmates across Alaska had been tested as of April 13, with 11 tests coming back negative and 6 test results pending.

A Wasilla woman in her 30s is the ninth Alaskan to die from complications related to COVID-19, according to the latest information from the state’s Coronavirus Response Hub. The woman had preexisting conditions and was reported as a new case on April 8, according to a Tuesday release from Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. She died in an Anchorage hospital on April 12.

Of the 285 cases, 98 Alaskans have recovered from the disease and nine have died. There have been 32 total people hospitalized in the state due to the virus, including those who have died. The number does not reflect current hospitalizations.

No additional cases were reported for the Kenai Peninsula, which has 15 confirmed cases throughout six different communities: Anchor Point (1), Homer (2), Kenai (3), Seward (3), Soldotna (4), and Sterling (2). One of the Homer residents who tested positive was tested and treated in Anchorage, and the Anchor Point resident was tested and died while out of state.

The state is reporting 136 cases in Anchorage, 79 in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, one in Delta Junction, one in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, 15 in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, 18 in Juneau, 15 in Ketchikan, two in Petersburg, two in Craig and one in Bethel.

DHSS has launched a series of surveys that are meant to gauge how the global pandemic is affecting Alaska families. Alaskans who want to respond to the first survey can text “AKFAMILY” to 907-269-0344. The surveys are also accessible online at the website for the state’s Maternal Child Health Epidemiology Unit at dhss.alaska.gov/dph/wcfh/Pages/mchepi/.

Reach Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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