Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Updates on COVID-19: Anchorage case, congressional delegation, Legislative action

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.

Here are updates from health officials, local agencies and organizations, the Legislature and other groups with updates on the state’s response to COVID-19.

Anchorage Case

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities released more information about the man who tested positive Thursday for COVID-19. He is a foreign national who developed a fever and respiratory symptoms shortly after arriving in Anchorage on March 11 on a private cargo flight.

He contacted his doctor and went to Alaska Regional Hospital for testing.

Cargo flights are separate from passenger flights, according to DOT. Cargo crewmembers never come into contact with general passengers and do not access the main terminal. Cargo crewmembers are cleared through U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the Anchorage North Terminal.

Officials did not name the cargo company.

Cargo is not considered a health risk, the Centers for Disease Control has noted. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods, according to the CDC.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink assured reporters Thursday that Alaskans should not be concerned over whether the cargo itself is infected.

Alaska Legislature

The Alaska Legislature announced closure to the public Friday. As of 5 p.m. on Friday, only lawmakers, staff, members of the governor’s administration and credentialed members of the press will be allowed into the building for the foreseeable future.

As of Friday afternoon, the Legislature will continue to operate as usual. However, public testimony will be limited to written or call-in testimony only.

The Legislature also enacted a temporary ban on state-sponsored travel by lawmakers and legislative employees. Additionally, anyone with access to the Capitol who travels out-of-state on personal business will be advised not to re-enter the building for at least seven days upon returning.

“To protect Alaskans and ensure the people’s business continues in a timely and transparent manner, the Legislature has acted to limit the spread of the virus,” said Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, chair of the Legislative Council Subcommittee on Emergency Response and Preparedness. “After several lengthy discussions, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, we will reduce interpersonal contact in the Capitol to limit exposure to the new coronavirus.”

Alaska Congressional Delegation Response

Alaska’s congressional delegation issued responses Thursday following the news that Alaska confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19.

“This evening, news broke that Alaska has confirmed its first positive case of coronavirus. Although this news seemed inevitable, it is no doubt unsettling to many in our state,” said Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young. “As we learn more, I want to urge everyone to remain calm and to continue taking action to prevent the spread of this virus. Minimizing contact with others who may be sick, avoiding touching your face, and staying home when you are sick are just some of the ways the CDC recommends protecting yourself.”

Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan offered similar thoughts.

“The health and well-being of Alaskans is my top priority. We are some of the most resilient people anywhere and, working together, we can limit the spread and lessen the impact of this virus. The individual in this case followed the appropriate protocol – by self-reporting – and our dedicated medical professionals were prepared,” Sullivan said.

“My staff and I are in regular contact with our state health officials and elected officials, standing by to give them the assistance needed in containing and treating this virus and dealing with its negative economic impacts.”

Last week, Congress passed an emergency supplemental funding package of $8.3 billion to put toward state, local, tribal and community health centers as well as national efforts to mitigate the outbreak.

President Trump declared a national state of emergency Friday afternoon, freeing up addition billions to put towards mitigation efforts.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski celebrated the president’s action in a statement Friday.

“Encouraged to see President Trump declared a national emergency over the #COVID19 outbreak to help our nation respond to this public health emergency,” Murkowski posted to her official Twitter account. “This declaration will free up an additional $50 billion for states, localities, and tribes to respond to this ongoing pandemic.”

Doyon Stakeholder Meeting

Doyon Ltd. is not canceling its upcoming stakeholder meeting March 20 in Fairbanks but is urging all stakeholders who are able to participate in its upcoming annual stakeholder meeting via webcast following increased concern over the spread of COVID-19.

The webcast can be accessed from the Doyon website on the day of the meeting. The password to access the broadcast is available in the annual report and proxy materials or will be made available upon request.

Additionally, the meeting will not feature the usual arts and crafts vendors or Doyon tables, the meeting agenda will be shortened to only central priorities and Doyon will postpone the recognition of annual Shareholders of the Year awards, keynote panel and giveaway of promotional items until a later date yet to be determined.

By:  Erin McGroarty
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner