Dunleavy declares emergency over COVID-19

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has declared a public health disaster emergency in response to an anticipated outbreak of the new coronavirus in Alaska, in advance of any confirmed cases.

Dunleavy called the declaration issued on Wednesday, March 11, “a proactive approach to accessing all necessary resources.

“As we are faced with the potential to have confirmed cases in Alaska, the state will elevate its response and bring to bear every element of state government needed to address this serious illness,” he said.

Issuance of the declaration initiates unified command structure between the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Department of Public Safety, and fully engages state departments to utilize all capabilities to ensure a swift response to COVID-19.

As of March 10, a total of 47 individuals in Alaska were tested for COVID-19, of which 31 test results were negative and 16 were pending.  Nationally a total of 647 cases were reported through March 10, with 25 deaths.  Precautions being taken nationwide to date range from postponement of a number of events which draw large crowds to closure of local school systems and temporary closure of some major universities.

The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, which represents hospitals and nursing homes across Alaska, has been having regular briefings with its members, which are proving to be very valuable, said Jared Kosin, executive director of the association.

“We are having constant situational updates,” he said. “Our hospitals and nursing homes are also talking directly to each other on these calls.  We are constantly pushing information down from the Centers for Disease Control, the American Hospital Association and the American Health Care Association.”

ASHNHA is offering its members guidance on everything from personal protective equipment to screening for symptoms and how to screen visitors to hospitals and nursing homes.

“We presume there will be an outbreak coming,” Kosin said.

His advice: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and don’t go to the hospital unless you have to, but if you do, call your doctor first.

As for personal protective equipment, Kosin said there are federal and state stockpiles on hand for use in the current situation.