Health officials announce 10 new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (in yellow) — the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (in blue/pink) cultured in a lab. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Rocky Mountain Laboratories)

Health officials identified 10 new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 32. Seven of the new cases are in Anchorage, two in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and one in Juneau.

One of the Anchorage cases had recently traveled outside of Alaska, said a statement from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “The remaining cases are not known to be travel-related at this time,” and are under investigation, the statement said.

At least two of the new Anchorage cases have “no clearly identified contact with a confirmed case,” Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, said in the statement.

“This indicates that community transmission of COVID-19 appears to be occurring in the Anchorage area,” he said.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issued an “emergency hunker down order” on Friday asking residents to minimize social contact and limit movement in the state’s largest city to essential errands in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The order goes into effect Sunday at 10 p.m. and extends through March 31. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has also closed all public and private schools to students through at least May 1. In Juneau, beginning Monday, many travelers coming to the city will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The number of known coronavirus cases has continued to grow each day in Alaska. The first known case was announced on March 12. A cargo pilot stopping in Anchorage tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Sunday’s statement, all of the 10 new cases are in adults and none of them have been hospitalized. They are isolating at home and their close contacts are being asked to quarantine for two weeks.

The state Section of Epidemiology is investigating these cases in cooperation with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the Anchorage Health Department and local public health nurses, according to the statement.

COVID-19 cases have now been identified in eight Alaska communities: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Seward, Sterling, Soldotna, Juneau and the Mat-Su Borough. By Saturday, there had been more than 950 COVID-19 tests completed for Alaska residents, according to the health department.

Related: Read more coronavirus coverage from Alaska Public Media.