COVID-19 digest update: March 31, 2020
March 1, 2020
Current COVID-19 cases continue to increase across Alaska
At the nightly press briefing on Tuesday, March 31, Dr. Anne Zink, of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today announced 14 new cases of COVID-19 in five Alaska communities – Anchorage (2), Eagle River (2), Fairbanks (5), Juneau (4) and Kenai (1). This brings the total case count in Alaska to 133.
Two of the new cases are older adults (60+); 10 are adults aged 30-59; and two are younger adults aged 19-29. Five are female and nine are male. Five of the cases are close contacts of previously diagnosed cases; two are travel-related, and seven are still under investigation.
So far the communities in Alaska that have had laboratory-confirmed cases include Anchorage (including JBER), Eagle River/Chugiak, Girdwood, Homer, Fairbanks, North Pole, Ketchikan, Juneau Palmer, Seward, Soldotna, Sterling and Kenai.
Daily updates are open to the public via the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) website: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/default.aspx.
State of Alaska defers fees and payments in light of pandemic
Commissioners from Governor Mike Dunleavy’s administration said on Tuesday night that many fees for permits, interest, and sale contracts will be deferred in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the Alaska Department of Labor to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, state agencies are responsible for maintaining fee structures that support Alaska businesses and residents. Currently, the Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, Department of Natural Resources, and Administrative departments are offering either suspensions or postponements. Some, like deferment of drivers and boat or vehicle licensing renewals and fees, will affect Alaskans on a day-to-day basis. Others, like the Department of Natural Resources’ deferral of land sale interest, fees, or payments, may benefit business owners who made purchases prior to the COVID-19 crisis. The complete list is provided on the governor’s press page, and all residents and businesses are encouraged to check prior to payment or a decision to defer: https://gov.alaska.gov/newsroom/.
Municipality of Anchorage Emergency Operations Center provides update
Anchorage city manager Bill Falsey provided residents and media with an update to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, March 31, outlining the Municipality strategies based upon its Mass Care Emergency Management Plan.
Falsey outlined the Municipality’s goal of containment, contact tracing, and supplies as priorities of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to protect residents of Anchorage from contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus.
“We are taking seriously the consequences of a decision to do nothing, as outlined in recent models,” Falsey stated. “Anchorage residents need to understand they have exponential power to affect the outcome, as of now.”
Falsey reiterated that the EOC is spearheading a plea for Anchorage businesses and residents to donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like gloves, gowns, masks, and face shields. CrossFit Alaska, located at 9191 Old Seward Highway in Anchorage, is a designated donation site for these items, and Falsey says thousands will be needed in the fight against the virus.
Anchorage Mayor assures Alaskans supply chain is safe
In a social media statement, mayor Ethan Berkowitz reiterated earlier this week that the Port of Alaska shipments continue uninterrupted, despite rumors to the contrary.
"Carlile Transportation Systems, Matson in Alaska, and TOTE Maritime Alaska operations continue to remain normal with no changes,” Berkowitz said. “A special thank you to the Port of Alaska maintenance team, Teamsters (union) Longshoremen, truck drivers, grocery store workers, food banks, and all who continue to serve on the front lines ensuring Alaskans have food and supplies while hunkered down. We recognize the work you do is critical to keeping our bellies full, our hospitals supplied, and our communities resilient.”
Berkowitz finished up the post, seen on Facebook, with the hashtag #hunkerdownAnchorTown, a popular rallying cry encouraging Anchorage residents, and Alaskans at large, to stay home and practice physical distancing.
Real ID date extended for another year
President Trump last week extended the final date for compliance with the Real ID mandate, originally set for Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021.
Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan approved the move in a press release, saying, "In the midst of this national health and economic crisis, it is unreasonable to expect Americans and Alaskans, especially those in remote communities, to rush to the DMV to comply with an impending federal ID mandate.”
The Real ID mandate has caused many Alaskans to worry about compliance, especially those in rural communities where it may be difficult to secure a Department of Motor Vehicles license, and in some cases, provide the appropriate documents ( https://www.dhs.gov/real-id-frequently-asked-questions ) for approval.