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Outbreak grows at East Anchorage care center, where COVID-19 cases now total 41

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Providence Transitional Care Center in Anchorage on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

An East Anchorage care center where a COVID-19 outbreak began in late May is now reporting 41 cases in residents and employees.

That news comes along with 19 new cases statewide reported Monday by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, including the first case in the Southeast community of Wrangell.

Haines Borough also reported its first case of COVID-19 on Monday, after a man with symptoms got tested last week. He is quarantined at home and did not recently travel, officials there said.

The double-digit increase reflects the latest in more than a week of increased case counts after almost a month with no significant spikes. Officials say that’s to be expected given Alaska’s mostly reopened economy, and that the increases aren’t stressing the state’s health-care system because COVID-related hospitalizations remain relatively low.

The outbreak of the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus at the Providence Transitional Care Center began in late May when a patient with a cough and a fever tested positive. The facility immediately tested more than 400 residents and employees.

Another 17 cases were discovered within several days of the May 29 onset.

As of Friday, that number had risen to 29: 14 residents and 15 caregivers, with two residents sick enough to require hospitalization. One of the caregivers also works on the campus of an adjacent long-term care center.

By status

A hospital spokeswoman on Friday said some residents have no symptoms and were in isolation while others with symptoms were getting treatment. The infected caregivers are quarantined at home.

The facility on Monday had 41 positive cases involving 16 residents and 25 caregivers, according to a Providence spokesman. Two require hospitalization.

Providence conducted a second round of testing on residents and caregivers over the weekend and staff are waiting for all of the results to come back from the lab, according to a care center coronavirus update.

Providence officials have said they believe the first patient was exposed to the virus within the facility because of the time they’d spent within the center before becoming infected.

The statewide case count of COVID-positive residents rose to a total of 563 since March, with 169 active cases now. The number of total hospitalizations since March remained at 48. Ten Alaskans have died with the virus.

Anchorage saw nine new cases, according to state health data. Additional cases were reported on the Kenai Peninsula, in the Mat-Su and in Juneau.

The state is seeing clusters of COVID-19 infections in Anchorage, with some in Mat-Su and Kenai, according to the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink.

A crew member on the state ferry Tustumena tested positive in Dutch Harbor late Saturday, but that test wasn’t counted in the state tally until Sunday and reported Monday. It marked the first COVID-19 case for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The ferry is temporarily out of service as it returns to Homer with 35 crew and six passengers, state officials say.

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