Alaska News

Alaska’s 12th virus death involves another resident at Anchorage care center dealing with outbreak

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A second Anchorage care facility resident with COVID-19 died this week as the state’s total number of active coronavirus cases continues to climb.

The death of a resident at the Providence Transitional Care Center in East Anchorage on Thursday is the state’s 12th fatality of an Alaskan with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to Providence spokesman Mikal Canfield. The resident was previously reported as critically ill by Providence officials earlier this week.

"We are saddened by this loss and extend our condolences to all of their loved ones during this difficult time,” Canfield said in an emailed statement Friday.

Alaska has seen an acceleration of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, compared with single-digit daily increases in cases for much of May. By Friday, there were 210 active cases of the illness statewide, the highest level since the state started tracking the illness in March, according to data from the state health department. The state first passed that threshold Wednesday, and again Thursday.

On Friday, state data showed 15 new cases of the illness among residents and seven among nonresidents.

The state of Alaska reopened different sectors of its economy and lifted most capacity limitations on businesses statewide in May. As state officials lifted those restrictions, they said they expected an uptick in cases but believed that Alaska had the health care capacity to manage it.

Many of the recent Alaska cases are tied to an outbreak of COVID-19 among residents and caregivers at the Providence facility. A COVID-positive resident of the facility died Sunday at the Providence Alaska Medical Center — the state’s first virus-related death in over a month.

The 49-bed Providence Transitional Care Center mostly provides rehabilitation for people after they leave the hospital, and residents typically stay there less than two months.

The first virus case there was confirmed in a resident in late May. Residents and staff have been tested for the illness multiple times since. On Thursday, Canfield said that Providence was in their third round of testing.

As of Friday, 18 residents and 27 caregivers at the center had tested positive for COVID-19, as had a caregiver from a long-term care facility on the same campus.

“Sadly, we are announcing the death of another Alaskan today and I want the individual’s loved ones to know we are thinking of them,” Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said in a statement Friday. “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been especially focused on the extra precautions that are needed to prevent the spread of this disease into our more vulnerable populations, including those in skilled nursing facilities like the PTCC."

In addition to cases at the care facility, a number of recent COVID-19 cases in Alaska involve crew members on the M/V Tustumena, which sailed from Homer to Dutch Harbor last week and returned to Homer on Monday. Seven total crew members on the state ferry were confirmed to have the illness.

Additionally, case counts continued to rise in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, with four more cases in Homer and one in Fritz Creek announced Friday.

On Friday, the Homer News reported that two people who work at a Homer assisted living facility as well as one resident tested positive for COVID-19. After a staff member at the Friendship Terrace tested positive for the illness, the testing of their close contacts resulted in the discovery of the second employee case, the newspaper reported.

Later Friday, the Homer News reported that a resident at the home had also tested positive for COVID-19 after testing was extended to other residents and staff not considered close contacts. The rest of the residents tested negative, the paper reported.

The Fairbanks Pioneer Home announced a case of COVID-19 involving an employee there on Thursday evening.

Friday’s 15 new reported cases of COVID-19 statewide also include five residents of Anchorage, one in Girdwood, one in North Pole, one in Sitka, one in Wasilla and one in Talkeetna.

The seven new nonresident cases include a seafood industry worker in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula region; a seafood worker, a visitor and another individual in Anchorage; a tourism worker and a visitor in the City and Borough of Sitka; and a visitor to the Bethel Census Area, who the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. said Thursday was identified through screening and testing of people getting off flights at the Bethel Airport.

There were two new hospitalizations of people confirmed to have COVID-19, according to a statement from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. on Friday reported a case of COVID-19 in a resident of a Southwest Alaska village. The person tested positive for the illness at the Alaska Native Medical Center and is self-isolating in Anchorage. The village name was withheld as means of privacy protection, a statement from the health corporation said.

A “rapid response team” is headed to the village Saturday in order to conduct testing and contact tracing, YKHC said.

Also on Friday, the Kodiak Island Borough announced its fourth case of the virus in an online statement and said more information regarding the case would be available next week.

Neither of those cases appear to be reflected in Friday’s state data; the state reports cases confirmed the previous day.

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