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Twelve new Anchorage cases are at Providence extended care facility

was written by Rashah McChesney, KTOO – Juneau , 2020-06-01 02:58:35

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This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (in yellow) — the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (in blue/pink) cultured in a lab. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Rocky Mountain Laboratories)

A dozen people in an extended care facility in Anchorage have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Those infected with the virus are a mix of residents and caregivers at the Providence Transitional Care Center — a skilled nursing facility in Anchorage. They’re among 27 new Alaskans that state health officials announced had the virus on Sunday. 

It’s the largest single day spike in cases since Alaska first started tracking the spread of the virus in March. 

During a Sunday press conference, Providence Health & Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Bernstein said the hospital learned Friday that one resident had developed symptoms. So, over the weekend they tested all of the residents and staff in the facility. 

Bernstein said it’s something that they had been working to prevent since mid-March. Staff have worn personal protective equipment, they’ve been cleaning high touch areas several times a day and there has been no visitation since mid-March. 

“We were hoping we could prevent this from happening but we know this is a highly transmissible or contagious virus and the real challenge is that people can be very infectious when they’re asymptomatic or before their symptoms develop,” he said.  

There are a few test results still pending. So the true size of the outbreak should become clearer in the next few days. 

“As for now, our work focuses on caring for the residents who are positive, most of whom do not have symptoms at this time,” he said. 

Outside of that healthcare facility, Anchorage had other cases. Natasha Pineda, Director of the Anchorage Health Department said city nurses are investigating all of them, but one is the contact of another known positive case in the state. 

“So we’re really asking the community members in Anchorage, as you proceed forward in our reopening, to go slow. As you expand your bubble, keep in mind the critical importance of physical distancing,” she said. 

That message is one that the state’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, reiterated as well.  She said the virus continues to spread through Southcentral Alaska, particularly in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula. 

“As we’re doing interviews, it appears to be that these seem to be linked — at least some of the cases — into clusters relating to some large celebrations that happened,” Zink said. 

“It’s impressive when we see this disease, how sneaky it can be and it can really spread amongst larger groups of people — 20, 30, 40 people getting together for a celebration, spreading, and then people going to work sick and how it can spread from there.” 

She said it’s important for Alaskans to remember to limit the number of people they come in contact with. Though, it’s inevitable that the virus will continue to spread.

“We always knew that open never meant over,” she said 

Despite the jump, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said his administration doesn’t plan to change its trajectory in reopening the state fully.  

“The fact is the virus is out there. We know it’s here in Alaska. We know it has been in many cities and communities in Alaska. We’ve done a pretty good job of keeping it at bay, we’re doing a pretty good job at testing. But we’ve always said, the numbers are going to go up,” he said. 

This week, his administration plans to end a requirement that people traveling into the state quarantine for 14 days. Instead visitors and Alaskans returning to the state will be asked to take a test with 72 hours of boarding an Alaska-bound flight. 

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Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is the biggest national forest within the United States. It received its name from the Tongass Clan of the Tlingit native people and dates back to 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt established the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve. In 1908 the forest was re-named and expanded and today the 16.9 million-acre Tongass National Forest extends from the Pacific to the large inland ice fields that edge British Columbia and from the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island to Malaspina Glacier five hundred miles to the north. About 80 % of Southeast Alaska is in Tongass and with it’s thousands of islands, fjords and bays the national forest offers 11,000 miles of coastline. Tongass’ considerable coastal rain forest consists of towering hemlock, spruce and red and yellow cedar. The undergrowth beneath thebig conifers is made up of young evergreens and shrubs such as devil’s club, blueberry and huckleberry. Moss and ferns cover the ground, and lichens adorn many trees and rocks.

Wildlife is plentiful throughout Tongass. Sitka blacktail deer and its two key predators, wolf and brown bear, are located here. Black bear are common as well as mountain goats and some moose. Marine mammals spotted along the coast line consist of Dall and harbor porpoises, seals and humpback, minke and orca whales and an increasing population of sea otters. The waters teem with fish including halibut and all five species of Pacific salmon. More bald eagles stay in this region than in any other place in the world. Although home to the world’s main temperate rain forest, practically half of Tongass is covered by ice, water, wetlands and rock. It’s most legendary ice floe is the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska’s “Drive-in glacier” because it is just thirteen miles from down-town Juneau along a paved road. A boat trip from Petersburg or Wrangell brings you near the face of LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier on the continent. Only thirty miles north of Yakutat is Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world and easily Alaska’s most energetic. The 76-mile-long glacier has crossed Russell Fjord several times, lately in 2008. The rip tides and currents that flow in front of the 8-mile-wide glacier are so powerful they lead to Hubbard to calve nearly constantly. The Tongass features nineteen wilderness areas, including the 545-sq-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness, as well as Admiralty Island National Monument and Misty Fiords National Monument. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the general area around Haines and Skagway aren’t part of the national forest.

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