Eight new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed at the Anchorage Pioneer Home on Wednesday.
There are now 12 people with COVID-19 at the facility, including 10 elders and two staff members, according to the state’s health department.
A Fairbanks woman in her 70s with underlying conditions was the 27th Alaskan whose death is tied to COVID-19, while the state reported 68 new cases. A state health official noted that cases do appear to be on a “downward trajectory,” after weeks of high case counts.
The eight new cases at the Anchorage Pioneer Home involve seven residents and one staff member, according to a written release from the department on Wednesday.
Last week, the state announced that three residents and one staff member had tested positive for the virus; the first resident cases reported at the Alaska Pioneer Homes. All residents and staff at the home were tested after the first case was found, the department said.
The cases last week were discovered among residents living in a single “neighborhood” at the Anchorage home.
Six of the new cases Wednesday are among people who live in that same area while one case is in a resident of a separate area, according to the release.
No residents had been hospitalized Wednesday afternoon and everyone who tested positive was in isolation at the home “and will have, as much as possible, dedicated staffing,” the statement said.
It was not immediately clear how many of the infected residents and staff were experiencing symptoms.
“Since the initial COVID-19 case was discovered in the Anchorage Pioneer Home, staff and leadership have responded with increased testing and other infection control measures to quickly detect and respond to any other potential cases inside the home,” said Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer said in a written statement Wednesday.
“It always causes us great concern when this virus makes its way into our vulnerable populations, which is why I appreciate the swift and responsive actions taken at the home to ensure all affected residents and staff are receiving proper care and monitoring,” she said.
Nationwide, nursing homes and elder-care facilities have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19.
The federal Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention has described the virus as being particularly deadly for adults 60 years and older, and those with underlying health conditions.
A New York Times database has linked more than 40% of all U.S. coronavirus deaths to nursing homes.
Since March in Alaska, some residents and staff at other care facilities have tested positive statewide, including an outbreak at the Providence Transitional Care Center in Anchorage, where two residents died.
Staff who tested positive were isolating at home Wednesday, and the facility is going through “daily sanitizing of all resident rooms in the home and all common areas including doorknobs, handrails, dining areas, workspaces, rest rooms and break areas,” according to the release.
Staff and residents at the Anchorage Pioneer Home will continue to get tested for COVID-19 weekly, the state said.
Pioneer Homes, Alaska’s state-supported elder-care facilities, operate in six locations: Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Palmer.
The six sites were closed to visitors in March to prevent an outbreak.
In June, an employee at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home tested positive for the virus.
Some of the facilities resumed limited family visitations in mid-July, after extensive testing revealed no positive cases in any of the homes, according to the state.
But the Anchorage Pioneer Home — which has In total, 141 residents and 168 staff members — has remained closed to visitors since March 17, due to continued high rates of community transmission in Anchorage.
“A downward trajectory.”
The 27th Alaskan to die of the new coronavirus was reported Wednesday, as 68 new cases were announced in multiple communities statewide.
The person who died was a Fairbanks woman in her 70s with underlying conditions, according to a release from the state’s health department.
In recent days, daily case counts have been lower than in July, when cases among both residents and nonresidents rose quickly and multiple major outbreaks in the seafood industry pushed daily case counts even higher.
“We really do appear to be in a downward trajectory and so that is good news,” the state’s epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said Wednesday during a video question-and-answer session.
Lower daily case counts in Anchorage were driving the state’s recent downward trend, he said, and probably shows recent measures the city has put in place are working.
There were 31 people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide on Wednesday, while another eight people were under investigation for the illness, state data showed.
Of the 68 new cases, the state reported 44 new cases in Anchorage and one new case in Wasilla. There were also two cases in Sterling and one in someone from a smaller community in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough. There were also six cases in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area.
Two resident cases as well as one non-resident case were reported for Juneau while Fairbanks saw six new resident cases.
State data also showed one case each reported in Metlakatla, Sitka, a smaller community in the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area, the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area and in a nonresident of the combined Yakutat and Hoonah-Angoon region.