Cordova has first non-travel-related virus case

Sanders: No evidence of community outbreak

Scanning electron micrograph of novel coronavirus particles isolated from a patient sample. (March 21, 2020) Image courtesy of NIAID

Cordova recorded its first case of community spread of the novel coronavirus Wednesday, July 8. The coronavirus-positive individual, a Cordova City Hall employee, did not display symptoms of the virus and was isolated following diagnosis.

Although this was Cordova’s first non-travel-related case of the virus, it did not demonstrate that a community outbreak had occurred, said Dr. Hannah Sanders, medical director for Cordova Community Medical Center, on July 8. In response to the newly identified case, the Cordova Center and city hall will be closed for the remainder of the week for cleaning and disinfection, according to a release from the city. During this period, city hall employees will work from home until they have received a negative test result for the virus.

All individuals who had close contact with the coronavirus-positive city hall employee had been notified by the evening of July 8, although it remained unconfirmed whether all of them had been tested. In this context, “close contact” is defined as having spent 15 minutes within 6 feet of the coronavirus-positive person. Anyone who suspects they may have had contact with a coronavirus-positive person is encouraged to limit their social contact and to get in touch with a health care provider, Sanders said.

“We are very dependent on community members following guidelines to help us keep this contained,” Sanders said. “I think, here in Cordova, we started getting comfortable when we had a few cases that were contained to a specific employee group — that Cordova has relaxed its guard. As we’ve relaxed our guard, we see more movement within the community, and people are not social distancing. I’m concerned with the consequences of that increased movement … We have good plans — we just need to follow them.”

The coronavirus-positive city hall employee was Cordova’s seventh identified case of the virus. The community’s first four coronavirus cases were Ocean Beauty Seafoods employees who tested positive shortly after arriving in Cordova, all of whom have since recovered. The community’s fifth case, identified over the Independence Day weekend, was a passenger arriving from Bellingham, Washington aboard the ferry M/V Kennicott. The community’s sixth case, identified Monday, July 6, was a traveler returning from Anchorage.

“We still have a long way to go before the end of this pandemic,” said City Manager Helen Howarth in a release. “We must remain diligent in our safety practices. Given the nature of the virus and how easily it’s contracted, it’s highly likely there will be more cases in our community. We cannot let our guard down. Our goal is to ensure the cases are isolated to that individual and do not spread.”

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As of July 6, 1,513 coronavirus tests had been conducted in Cordova, according to data published by the city. Community health care providers have the capacity to perform at least 1,100 more tests.

“It’s scary for all of us,” Sanders said. “We’re working as hard as we can to identify cases. But we need the public’s help to keep it contained.”

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