KTVA: Alaska's US lawmakers say $2 trillion stimulus will bolster small businesses

In the first news conference of the week, Alaska's governor and public health officials announced there were just five new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. Experts say the number of people infected will peak over the course of the next few weeks.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said all of the new patients identified were between 30 and 59 years old. Two cases were in Anchorage, two in Fairbanks and one in Palmer.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy was joined by Rep. Don Young, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to discuss the federal response to the novel coronavirus and the virus' impact on the state's economy.

"The reality is that what we're facing right now is unprecedented in many respects," Murkowski said.

The senator said the pandemic will serve as an important lesson for the country as a whole and sourcing medical items within the country will need to be a priority.

Zink and Sullivan both said the state was able to secure an additional 60 ventilators from the federal government — the state's full allotment. Zink said those are currently being tested before being deployed.

She said the state will still need more, citing data that suggests a need for up to 1,000 more ventilators. The state is preparing for the worse case scenario, she said, and is working with private companies to see what can be done to secure additional medical equipment.

Watch the press conference:

Both Sullivan and Young lauded the passing of the CARES Act — a multi-trillion-dollar stimulus to inject cash into the American economy.

"We have such a huge challenge, health challenge, economic challenge, to our state, to our country," Sullivan said.

Alaska's junior senator said the focus of the bill is meant to help small businesses stay afloat and pay their workers during the closures meant to curb the spread of the virus. Sullivan said businesses should be able to grow again once the pandemic is over.

Murkowski said the bill's aim is to 'keep the wheels on the bus' as health care workers around the country strive to contain the virus.

"The impact of this coronavirus is not only debilitating from a health perspective, but the economic perspective," she said.

Both senators said lawmakers tried to pass the bill as quickly as possible, but Congress will look at the effects of the bill and reassess if additional funds are needed.

With the state's fishing season looming, the lawmakers and Zink addressed the concerns to get rapid testing methods out to rural Alaska as workers are beginning to travel to those areas.

As of Monday, over 3,000 tests for COVID-19 have been completed on Alaska residents. There are 119 confirmed cases, seven hospitalizations and three deaths.

Two of the deaths happened in Anchorage, while another Alaska resident contracted and died from the disease in Washington state.

By:  Elizabeth Roman and Jes Stugelmayer
Source: KTVA