Saying Alaska’s COVID-19 cases are sure to rise as some of the state’s businesses start reopening, Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Monday declined to set a date to open more.
The state’s restaurants, salons and retail stores were allowed to open back up again Friday in what Dunleavy calls the first phase of his “Reopen Alaska Responsibly” plan. Municipal officials allowed Anchorage businesses to start reopening Monday.
Both governments say that relatively low rates of coronavirus infection here prompted the decision.
State officials last week set a tentative date of May 8 for the second phase of reopening without specifically describing what additional sectors that involves.
Asked about that date on Monday, Dunleavy said the state isn’t working with a hard-and-fast deadline but instead is watching to see whether the first phase of reopening triggers COVID-19 spikes or clusters at businesses allowed to reopen now.
State health teams are working on the next phase this week as they watch the number of new cases and any burden they put on hospitals, the governor said.
“I have no doubt there will be an occasional setback or two,” Dunleavy said. "We’re going to forge ahead, we’re going to protect the health of Alaskans. But we’re going to deal with this not in an atmosphere of fear but more in an atmosphere of understanding what needs to be done.”
Officials urged Alaskans to continue to stay home as much as possible, wear face masks in public, and get tested with even mild symptoms of the virus. New testing guidance for people without symptoms are expected to be released Tuesday.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Monday reported four more people tested positive for COVID-19: two men in their 20s and a woman in her 40s, from Anchorage and Eagle River, and a man in his 50s from Wasilla. Of the 345 confirmed cases in Alaska, 218 patients are considered recovered.
Nine Alaskans have died from the virus, several after contracting it out of state. The last death was April 12.
There were four people hospitalized with the virus as of Monday, according to Dr. Anne Zink, chief medical officer. Of the more than 16,200 COVID-19 tests performed in Alaska as of Monday, 2.1 percent were positive.
If any new cases are traced back to a particular business, state health officials might announce sources of clusters, or temporarily close particular businesses if necessary, Zink said.
That process hinges on more testing and fast results, she said. “We’re really trying to increase testing to get faster turnarounds."
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