Four more Alaskans have become sick enough with COVID-19 related symptoms to be hospitalized and 40 more Alaskans, along with six more nonresidents, have tested positive for the disease, according to a report from the state Department of Health and Social Services Thursday.
Four residents of the Anchorage Pioneers’ Home have tested positive for the disease, according to a separate announced from the state. All of the residents have been placed in isolation. The source of all four cases is still under investigation.
This is the first instance of Pioneers’ Home residents testing positive statewide. A Fairbanks Pioneers’ Home employee tested positive in June, but no instances of resident infection were discovered at the facility.
The Anchorage Pioneers’ Home is in the process of testing all other residents and employees.
Anchorage residents made more than half of the new resident cases announced Thursday, with 24 additional individuals confirmed to have the disease. The other cases were spread among Juneau, the Northwest Arctic Borough, Soldotna, Eagle River, Valdez-Cordova Census Area and Wasilla.
These new cases bring the cumulative total number of Alaskans to have tested positive 3,484, about 69% of which have been deemed “active” by state health officials.
Six new nonresidents have tested positive for the disease: two seafood industry workers in Seward and two seafood industry workers, one visitor and one individual still under investigation in Juneau.
This brings the total number of nonresidents to have tested positive for the disease within the state of Alaska to 739, about 76% of which have been deemed active by state health officials. Cases considered recovered involve individuals who no longer require isolation.
A total of 261,572 tests have been conducted statewide to date. The average percentage of daily positive tests for the previous seven days is 3.05%.
According to Interior Alaska Unified Command spokesman Kyle Wright, about 20,000 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the Fairbanks North Star Borough since the pandemic first hit in mid-March.
Recently, health workers have been performing an average of 1,000 tests per week, Wright added.
While Fairbanks has seen a steady increase in active cases –– currently sitting at about 69% of the borough’s total 420 resident cases –– Anchorage is the area that has seen the sharpest spike in cases over the last week, according to a state report.
Alaska’s largest city saw 506 new cases within the last week, about 67% of the total new cases reported statewide over the last seven days.
Total cases in Alaska residents rose 30% in the last week week with 755 new cases, the most Alaska has had in a single week since the pandemic began.
Contact tracers have deduced that “social gatherings, within families, at community events, churches and bars” have significantly contributed to the rise in cases, according to a weekly case overview from state health officials.
As rural Alaska communities begin to grapple with cases arising in a number of villages across the state, the number of cases found in Alaska Native individuals has risen by 4% in the last week.
While some communities such as Anchorage, Seward and Juneau require public masking, the state as a whole is operating without such policy and cases are expected to continue to rise at a similar rate, health experts outlined in the report.
Mike Meeks, chief of staff for city of Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly, told reporters Thursday the mayor was not considering a citywide mask mandate due to enforcement issues that would naturally arise. Meeks said the mayor strongly urges the use of masks in public.
Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward has cited legal limitations due the borough having limited powers as a second-class borough as the reason why he has not considered a mask mandate.