State reports 10th death from COVID-19

Cordova confirms first case is seafood processing worker

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell infected with coronavirus particles. (May 2, 2020) Image courtesy of NIAID

State health officials on Wednesday, May 6, reported the death of a 10th person from the deadly virus, a man in his 80s from Anchorage Point who had preexisting medical conditions.

Meanwhile the number of those recovered from the novel coronavirus virus stood at 284 individuals, and a total of 22,655 of the state’s approximately 731,545 residents have now been tested for the virus, state officials said.

A seafood processing worker who arrived in Alaska to work, only to become Cordova’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus, was identified as infected in routine testing by Ocean Beauty Seafoods and was quickly placed into isolated quarantine.

With the increasing number of infections from the novel coronavirus still being confirmed in single digits, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state would begin the second phase of reopening for business as early as Friday.

Phase two will include 50 percent capacity for retail, restaurants and other non-essential businesses outlined in phase one, with walk-ins permitted, as well as personal care services at 50 percent or up to 20 patrons, but by reservation only. Also included will be gatherings of up to 50 people for social and religious purposes, and walk-ins at 50 percent capacity for swimming pools. Fitness centers bars, libraries and museums will also be permitted to operate at 25 percent of their capacity, with walk-ins allowed, but Dunleavy said state officials would be watching closely for spikes in the numbers of infected.

Phase three, at a date still to be determined, is slated to include 75 percent capacity for most businesses, plus an OK for large gatherings that include non-household members.

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Meanwhile the Legislature has yet to approval how $1.2 billion in federal CARES Act funding will be shared by various entities.

On an international level more than 3.15 million people have been infected, with 218,179 dead and another 961,860 recovered. In the U.S alone the number of infected has reached over 1 million people, with more than 59,000 deaths, and upwards of 142,000 recovered.

Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin said that fishermen in the area for the Copper River salmon fishery, which opens for a 12-hour commercial drift gillnet period on May 14, may go into town for essential reasons during their 14-day quarantine.

Also, if they have no symptoms or violations of that quarantine for 14 days then they will have the same freedom as residents. Still, if they violate general health mandates established by the community, go to another community and come back, have a new crew member come aboard, or develop symptoms, that quarantine clock starts over.

“We are hoping to get the economy back to where it was sooner than later,” he said.

An emergency order to delay the reopening of many businesses in Cordova until May 20 remains in effect at this time, and may or may not be lifted, Koplin said. The issue was to come before the Cordova City Council at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 6.

The state’s Legislative budget and audit committee voted last week to authorize $125 million in federal funding from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, and efforts are underway to get those funds out to a variety of areas adversely impacted by the pandemic.

Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, said that action was a significant first step and the committee is working overtime to review Dunleavy’s revised proposal on use of those funds.

The package includes $29 million for rural transportation costs, including the Alaska Marine Highway System, plus $42 million for child nutrition programs, $45 million for K-12 education, $5 million for the University of Alaska, and $3.6 million for state and local law enforcement.