Number of coronavirus cases in Alaska jumps to 59

This transmission electron microscope image shows the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The virus was isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Rocky Mountain Laboratories)

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Alaska jumped to 59 on Wednesday, up 17 from the announcement a day earlier, as the outbreak continues.

Two of the people who tested positive for the disease were hospitalized and in critical condition, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said at a news conference Wednesday evening. She later announced there was also a third person in the hospital in Alaska with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Of the newly diagnosed Alaskans, 11 are from Anchorage, one is from Fairbanks, three are from Ketchikan and one is from North Pole, Zink said. Another is from Homer. That person became ill after traveling out of state, tested positive in Anchorage and has not left the city, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Most of the Alaskans who recently tested positive for the disease are above age 30, according to Zink. Three are between the ages of 19 and 29, nine are between the ages of 30 and 59 and five are over the age of 60. Eight of them are males, while nine are females, Zink said.

“As we’ve been seeing every day, the cases continue to climb,” she said. “Again, we didn’t know this disease existed a few months ago, and what we’re seeing is that it is very contagious.”

Watch the news conference here.

She said the virus is in an “acceleration phase,” with a “huge increase in cases day by day” across the United States. Alaska is a little bit behind the rest of the country, Zink said, “so we’re not quite at that acceleration curve, but I am highly concerned that we’re headed that direction.”

The total number of positive tests in Alaska includes 25 in Anchorage, including on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, three in the Chugiak-Eagle River area and two in Palmer. There’s also 11 cases in Ketchikan, eight in Fairbanks and two in Juneau, according to the health department.

View the full list of cases here.

Of the 59 cases, 24 are believed to be related to out-of-state travel, six are not related to travel and 16 had been in close contact with someone who also had the disease. The rest remain under investigation, the health department said.

Follow our continuing coverage of coronavirus in Alaska.

More than 1,800 COVID-19 tests had been completed for Alaskans by Tuesday.

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Alaska has continued to grow each day since the first case was announced in Anchorage on March 12. Dunleavy also announced Tuesday that a resident of Southeast Alaska had died of COVID-19 in Washington state on March 16. It’s the first Alaskan who’s known to have died of the disease. 

Related: Longtime Petersburg resident, hospitalized in Washington state, has died of coronavirus

Across the United States by Wednesday, there were more than 54,000 cases of COVID-19 and 737 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Read the latest coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska.

Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447.