Update: City raises alert after spate of new virus cases

A scanning electron microscope image showing coronavirus emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab.(Feb. 20, 2020) Image courtesy of NIAID-RML

Updated 10:45 p.m., Oct. 7

The city raised its public health alert level after four new coronavirus cases were identified in one week. Cordova reported two new cases Wednesday, Oct. 7, one new case Tuesday, Oct. 6 and one new case Friday, Oct. 2.

Although initial statements by city officials described the new cases as part of a cluster, Cordova Community Medical Center Medical Director Dr. Hannah Sanders said that the cases were not necessarily all related. However, at least some of the newly identified coronavirus-positive individuals had contact with one another prior to being diagnosed, according to a release by the city.

In response to this locally unprecedented spike in cases, the city’s medical response team raised its public health alert to level three. Under a level-three alert, the city requests community members to step up measures to prevent spread of the virus, but stops short of mandating any business closures. The city was previously under a level-three alert from July 31-Aug. 20.

The heightened alert level will not prevent outdoor events like the Friday, Oct. 9 Coast Guard ceremony to be held near the Cordova Center, City Manager Helen Howarth said. Class at local schools will continue uninterrupted, Howarth said.

“Changing the level is not intended to be a cause of alarm,” Sanders said. “We just want to encourage community members to proceed with caution and make sure that we’re protecting the vulnerable and fragile people in our population.”

Cordova’s four-case spike reflects in miniature a statewide surge of cases. Two weeks of triple-digit case increases have raised Alaska’s coronavirus patient numbers to 9,861, as of Oct. 7.

Of the city’s 23 virus cases, 12 have been Cordova residents and 11 have been non-residents. As of Oct. 7, 20 of those 23 cases were confirmed to have recovered. In an announcement, city health officials urged the public to take precautions against the virus such as wearing face coverings, maintaining a distance of 6 feet from non-household members whenever possible, regularly washing hands and limiting outings for errands.

Anyone displaying even mild symptoms should undergo a COVID-19 test, city officials said. Testing remains available at CCMC and Ilanka Community Health Center. Cordova’s hospital capacity remains good, city officials said.