Update: This story has been updated to include one new case reported on Saturday and a clarification by the state about an error in hospitalization numbers.
Nine new COVID-19 cases, including two new cases for the Kenai Peninsula, were reported during a press conference on Friday with Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink. One additional case was reported by the state on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in Alaska to 365 as of Saturday afternoon.
Dunleavy took the opportunity during Friday’s press conference to speak on some of the federal funding that is now available to Alaska.
Dunleavy said that $1.5 billion is currently available to Alaska through the CARES act, which was passed by the U.S. Congress to provide financial relief to states and communities in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The distribution of those funds is being administered by the state’s Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, which consists of members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“As we know, individual Alaskans, businesses, and communities need relief,” Dunleavy said. “And what we wanted to do is have general categories so that when it goes out to cities and municipalities and other recipients, that they use it in a manner that’s consistent with the CARES Act but also with what they need in terms of mitigation of the pandemic.”
The money has already been received by the state and is in the hands of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, Dunleavy said, and can be distributed immediately. Dunleavy said that the committee is still working through some portions of the CARES Act to determine where the funding will go, but $50 million for nonprofit organizations and $331 million for ongoing health care costs have been allocated so far.
Dunleavy said that Monday’s press conference would focus specifically on the CARES Act and that he and several of his commissioners will be discussing the distribution of funds in more detail. The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee will be meeting next Wednesday to approve the distribution of the remainder of the CARES Act funding.
COVID-19 in Alaska: By the numbers
The nine new cases reported during Friday’s press conference are in five different communities: five in Anchorage, one in Eagle River, one in Homer, one in Anchor Point and one in North Pole. The case reported on Saturday is from Fairbanks.
The Homer woman, age 64, told the Homer News that she had not traveled outside of Homer since the pandemic started. The woman said she had been isolating at home and had only gone outside her home to get groceries. The woman said she wore a face mask when shopping and followed other recommendations such as washing her hands frequently and using sanitizer. Homer Public Health nurses are doing investigating contacts the woman might have had, and have advised the woman and others to quarantine for 14-days.
Of the 10 new cases, five are men and five are women. Five are between the ages of 20-29, two are between 50-59, two are between 60-69, and one is over 80. The state reported no new hospitalizations and no new deaths on Friday, however, an April 30 press release from Homer Unified Command, reporting by the Homer News and the raw data on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard indicate that the Anchor Point resident reported positive on Friday is currently hospitalized.
When asked about the discrepancy in the reporting, Zink said on Friday that the hospitalization may be reflected in Saturday’s case count but was unable to speak to the case specifically.
Clinton Bennett, communications director for Department of Health and Social Services, clarified on Saturday that the Anchor Point hospitalization should have been reflected in Friday’s case count. The number of cumulative hospitalizations remains unchanged at 36, and Bennett explained that an ER visit by a COVID-19 patient was incorrectly categorized as a hospitalization and has since been removed from the count.
The total number of cases in Alaska is now at 365, which includes 261 people who have fully recovered from the disease.
On the Kenai Peninsula, the total case count now stands at 21, with 16 of those cases already recovered. The Kenai Peninsula cases are distributed throughout the following communities: two in Anchor Point, three in Homer, four in Kenai, three in Seward, six in Soldotna and three in Sterling. This includes a Homer resident who was tested and treated in Anchorage, and an Anchor Point resident who died while out of state.
For the latest data on the COVID-19 pandemic in Alaska, visit the state’s coronavirus response hub at https://coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com.
Reach Brian Mazurek at firstname.lastname@example.org.