Alaska health department confirms 10 new COVID-19 cases

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 cultured in a lab. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Rocky Mountain Laboratories)

The number of known COVID-19 cases in Alaska grew to 69 by Thursday, up from 59 confirmed cases the day before, as the disease continues to spread throughout the state, and the country.

The newly-diagnosed Alaskans include a child — the first youth in the state to be infected with the disease, said a statement from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The child is a relative of a previously-diagnosed case.

The other new cases include two Alaskans between the ages of 19 and 29, five between the ages of 30 and 59 and two over the age of 60, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said at a news conference Thursday evening.

Related: As number of COVID-19 cases grows, Alaska officials warn of a limited healthcare system

There’s now evidence of community spread in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Ketchikan, Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, said in the health department’s statement.

“This means that COVID-19 cases are being identified in people in these communities who have had no recent out-of-state travel and no identified link to another person with confirmed COVID-19 infection,” he said. “This heightens the need for vigilant adherence to social distancing measures and prompt home isolation of people who develop any symptoms of respiratory infection.”

The new cases include five newly-diagnosed Alaskans from the Anchorage area and two from Fairbanks. Two are from North Pole and one is from Juneau, according to the data from state health department that’s updated daily.

Four are male and six are female, Zink said. She said “numerous” health care workers have tested positive for the disease, but said she didn’t have a specific number at the news conference.

The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations remained the same by Thursday evening. Three Alaskans have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The disease has killed one Alaskan. A 76-year-old man from Southeast Alaska died of COVID-19 in Washington state on March 16.

Of the newly-infected Alaskans, four had been in close contact with someone already diagnosed with the disease. Six of the cases remain under investigation, Zink said.

More than 2,300 COVID-19 tests had been performed in Alaska by Wednesday, according to the health department.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the U.S. now leads the world in the number of known COVID-19 cases, with the number of people infected topping 82,000, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 990 deaths. 

Read the latest coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska.

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