COVID-19 digest, April 2, 2020

Alaska’s current case count

As of April 1 at 3 p.m., Alaska had 10 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of affected citizens statewide to 143. There are nine individuals hospitalized, no new deaths, with 5,000-plus coronavirus tests administered.

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, also relayed information that test kits are being sent to rural communities, and health aides are in the process of training to enable them to administer tests to residents of villages.

The State of Alaska’s COVID-19 page on the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) website provides additional findings, including the breakdown of cases by city.

Spring bear hunts canceled

Normally, hunters would be arriving in several Alaska communities this week with tags for black and brown bears, but the state canceled the annual hunt yesterday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Given that this virus is very disruptive, and the enforcement issues,” Governor Mike Dunleavey said in Wednesday’s press briefing, “The answer is that the spring bear hunts will be canceled.”

An Alaska Department of Fish and Game press release stated that the cancelation is effective statewide through May 31, but that the “decision will be reevaluated as necessary, and subsistence bear hunts will remain open as a way for residents to fill freezers and provide for families.” Read the full release here:

COVID-19 crisis delays three ferries from a return to service

The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) vessels M/V Columbia, M/V Kennicott, and M/V Tustemena were scheduled to leave the Ketchikan Shipyard soon and return to service by early May, 2020. But yesterday, Alaska Department of Transportation officials delayed that return until at least mid-May.

The press release stated that “While Vigor Ketchikan Shipyard expects to complete overhaul work for the Columbia, Kennicott, and Tustemena on schedule, additional AMHS crew must first return to Ketchikan to provision the vessels and complete practice drills for the required safety certifications before service can resume.” Under current COVID-19 protocols, however, according to the Department, “this is not feasible at this time.”

Also announced by officials is a reduction in service to the Southeast Alaska communities of Angoon and Hoonah.

“Emergency orders implementing travel restrictions have been issued by the communities of Angoon and Hoonah, and traffic demand for those communities is greatly diminished. As a result, AMHS is reducing service levels for Angoon and Hoonah to provide essential grocery deliveries until the public health crisis has abated.”

The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is extending its policy waiving cancellation fees for any reservation until May 1, 2020. To cancel or make changes to an itinerary you can contact the AMHS reservation call center at 1-800-642-0066 or call your local AMHS terminal.

A significant portion of Alaska Marine Highway System funding was slashed last year by Governor Dunleavy in an effort to balance the statewide budget. Many coastal Alaska communities have not seen service since September, 2019.

Read more about the current delays in service, here: