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Alaska officials on Tuesday announced the first coronavirus-related death of an Alaskan, who died in Washington State.
The Alaskan was thought to have contracted the disease outside of the state since they had not recently travelled from Alaska. The person was older and suffered from two chronic diseases, said Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink at a press conference on Tuesday.
Officials also announced six new confirmed cases, bringing the state total to 42. As of Tuesday night, Kodiak still had no confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Of the six new cases, one is hospitalized in Juneau, two are from Fairbanks, one is from Sterling and two are from Ketchikan. One patient is between the age of 19 and 29, three are between the ages of 30 and 59, and two are over the age of 60, she said.
In the face of the rising number of cases, Gov. Mike Dunleavy urged Alaskans to stay away from others for two weeks.
“If you are not in close contact with others, you don’t help the virus spread,” he said at the Tuesday press conference. “You’ve got to stay away from others. Two weeks is what we are asking.”
Zink said that according to Chinese data, there is an 80% spread rate of the virus within a household. She therefore urged sick family members with respiratory symptoms or fever to self-isolate.
“If you have a close contact in your house and someone in your house isn’t feeling well, you need to isolate that person from the rest of the household members,” she said, advising those family members to separate themselves in another room and use a separate bathroom.
For others who are not sick, Zink said that walking outside and being in nature can be healthy as long as people maintain a distance of 6 feet between one another.
She said to avoid riding the bus, carpooling, having play dates and touching other people.
“This virus is going to infect you if you don’t slow things down, if you don’t move apart from each other,” Zink said. “Please just for two weeks, stop what you are doing and stay away from each other.”
Dr. Zink previously said turnaround for results is one day, but health officials in Kodiak say turnaround for the island can take as long as five days.
Zink attributed this difference to delays in the process, in part because of Kodiak’s distance from the testing centers.
Sometimes there are delays in transporting the swab to the testing centers, Zink said. In addition, there have been inconsistencies in where clinics, drive-thrus or hospitals are sending the swabs.
For higher-risk people, officials recommend that health care providers send the tests to state labs, where turnaround is less than 24 hours, she said.
Officials recommend that tests for lower-risk patients be sent to the out-of-state, commercial labs, which could “take a while to get back,” Zink said.
Zink also said the state has seen delays in providers contacting patients with the results.