Zink praises Alaskans for efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19

Tim Clapp, contract specialist for the USACE Alaska District’s Site Assessment Team, joins emergency responders in examining the possible configuration of patient beds based on the USACE standard conversion design in Anchorage. (March 27, 2020) Photo courtesy of Rachel Napolitan/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Even as the number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Alaska rose on Thursday, April 2, state health officials commended Alaskans for helping to slow the spread of the pandemic, buying time for building capability to deal with more illness.

Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said during a teleconference from Anchorage that a total of 13 people have been hospitalized due to complications of COVID-19 since January, and that the death toll stood at three.

Zink also praised Alaskans for efforts to wash hands frequently, keep a distance of at least six feet between themselves and others and wipe down frequently touched surfaces.

“Just over 2 percent of the tests for COVID-19 are coming back positive,” she said. “The work Alaskans are doing to flatten the curve is tremendous.”

She also praised individuals and private entities who are pitching in to make personal protective equipment, including distilleries and breweries that are producing hand sanitizer, and individuals helping with special needs, like delivering groceries to those in need. All this is allowing state medical officials to build capacity to treat patients yet to come, she said.

To date the state has on hand some 73,000 surgical masks, plus some 26,000 N-95 masks and 4,700 gowns.

“We know that there’s a lot of consequences secondary to the pandemic in general,” she said, “but I think as Alaskans we’re already fattening the spread, and as Alaskans, we can help minimize the other ones.”

“You are buying us time,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said. “Alaska’s numbers considering that we are dealing with a pandemic, we are not doing that poorly and that is exactly where we want to be right now. We are getting more and more equipment in. Because of you, we are doing pretty good. We do believe we will get more cases.”

Zink cautioned that homemade masks may give those wearing them a false sense of security, “but homemade masks can prevent spread of the disease if you are asymptomatic, so consider a tight homemade mask,” she said. “We have seen amazing work by people making masks.”

Some 1,017,862 people worldwide have so far tested positive for COVID-19, with 53,296 deaths, but another 209,894 people have totally recovered.

In the U.S. alone 245,373 people have tested positive, with 6,095 now deceased and 9,359 people recovered.  Total figures for the number of people who have recovered to date in Alaska were not available, Zink said, because those recovering were not required to report that they were now free of the virus.

Nationwide to date Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota have had the lowest number of people test positive for COVID-19.