Updated: Number of recoveries mounting faster than newly infected

Seafood worker diagnosed with COVID-19 in Cordova doesn’t count in state total

UAF student Jennifer Purkiss holds a tray of coronavirus-negative samples at the Alaska State Virology Lab at UAF (April 8, 2020) Photo courtesy of Alaska State Virology Lab

Updated 3 p.m., May 10.

Phase two of the statewide economic recovery plan is now underway, with similar plans for Cordova, Anchorage and Juneau still on hold, as the number of people recovering from COVID-19 continues to outpace newly diagnosed cases.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said the municipality would allow limited opening on Monday, May 11, of bars, theaters, bingo halls and gyms, in a manner nearly identical to the reopening plan that went into effect on Friday, May 8 for most of the state.

One new case of the novel coronavirus was reported statewide for the 24-hour period ending at midnight on Saturday, May 9, of Fairbanks man in the 30-39 age bracket who tested positive, bringing the statewide virus case total to 379, of which 324 are now recovered. As of Sunday, May 10, the overall total of hospitalizations remained at 38, with 10 deaths overall.

The seafood processing worker who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Cordova is not included in the statewide count, since that person is not an Alaska resident. That individual, 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 earlier in the week and placed under quarantine.

Phase two of the state’s “Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan” allows for retail, restaurant, personal care and office facilities to operate at 50 percent of capacity, up from 25 percent a week earlier, and for gyms, bars, libraries and theaters to open at 25 percent of capacity.

Phase two also allows walk-ins without reservations at restaurants and bars and for social and religious gatherings of up to 50 people, including non-household members, as long as social distancing is maintained,

Phase three, at a date still to be determined, will increase the capacity for most businesses to 75 percent, and also allow for larger gatherings, including those not members of the same household. 

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

Worldwide, 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 upward 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 state’s legislative budget and audit committee voted last week to authorize $125 million in federal funding from the CARES 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.