Alaska’s COVID-19 case tally notches up 5; Delegation explains new federal relief measures

A screenshot of Governor Mike Dunleavy and Cheif Medical Officer Anne Zink from a press briefing broadcast by the governor’s office on Monday, March 30, 2020.

Alaska reported five new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 119, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said at an evening press briefing.  

All the new cases were between the ages of 30 and 59, according to Chief State Medical Officer Anne Zink.

Two of the new cases are in Anchorage, two in Fairbanks and one from Palmer, she said. Two patients were exposed to the virus through “close contact” with an infected person. The others are being investigated.

Seven people who have tested positive have been hospitalized. The number of Alaska samples tested now exceeds 3,700.

Catch up on the latest news on coronavirus in Alaska.

Alaska’s three-person congressional delegation was on the line, from separate locations. They praised the features of the $2.2 trillion bill Congress passed last week, known as the CARES Act.

“It’s a good package for Alaska,” Congressman Don Young said. 

Young talked about financial assistance, not for all Alaskans, he said, but for “those who paid their taxes at a certain time.”

The direct payment will provide $1,200 for each adult, plus $500 per child. Young also talked about strengthened unemployment benefits and benefits for gig workers. 

Sen. Dan Sullivan discussed a program meant to provide rapid relief to small businesses called the “paycheck protection program.”

“The idea is that you keep the employer connected to … his or her worker,” he said. 

It’s a $350 billion set aside to provide government-backed loans to small businesses, he said. If they use the money to cover qualified expenses, like payroll, rent or mortgage, after eight weeks, the loan will turn into a grant.

“Small businesses” are defined as having 500 or fewer employees and can be as small as independent contractors, sole proprietors or fishermen. Some companies, like those in oil and mining, can qualify with 1,000 employees.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said that the federal funds would help to “keep the wheels on the bus.”

“Every day we see more and more the impact to people of all areas of the state,” she said.  

Alaska will benefit from $1.25 billion in stabilization funds used directly for coronavirus impacts, and it can be shared with municipalities or school districts, she said. The CARES Act also has an education fund, $8 billion for tribes, and more money for the Indian Health Service, first responders and domestic violence shelters. 

Alaska’s Energy Desk Editor Julia O’Malley contributed to this story.