Alaska’s confirmed COVID-19 cases grow by 14, two more hospitalized

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 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska grew to 133 by Tuesday, up 14 from the day before, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Service’s count that’s updated daily.

Fairbanks, which health officials have described as the state’s coronavirus “hot spot,” recorded the most new cases, at five, bringing the total to 27 in the Interior Alaska city. Another four of the newly-diagnosed Alaskans are from Juneau, two are from Anchorage, two are from Eagle River and one is from Kenai, according to the health department.

View Alaska’s entire case count here.

Two more Alaskans had also been hospitalized with the disease by Tuesday, bringing the total hospitalizations to nine, said Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a 5 p.m. Tuesday news conference.

“Thank goodness, there’s no new deaths,” Dunleavy said.

Three Alaskans died in March after testing positive for COVID-19 — two in the state and one out of state.

More than 4,500 coronavirus tests had been performed in Alaska by Tuesday, Dunleavy said.

Alaska is not yet in an “acceleration phase” of cases like places such as New York City, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said at the news conference.

She said the state is creating and analyzing models to predict when Alaska’s cases may peak and how many hospital beds the state will need.

“Based on other states, it could be anywhere from the end of April to June, July, is when we could kind of peak,” Zink said.

“Again, the whole goal is to have that curve pushed down as low as it can go, and to not ever have really a spike, but to see like a slow roll of constant patients as we’re getting supplies, we’re getting testing, we’re building immunity and we’re hopefully getting a vaccine and treatment,” she said.

Catch up on the latest news on coronavirus in Alaska.

Of the 14 new cases announced Tuesday, two are in adults older than age 60, 10 are ages 30 to 59 and two are ages 19 to 29, the health department reported.

Five of the cases are close contacts of previously-diagnosed people. Two are travel-related and seven are still under investigation.

Oil and gas company BP also announced Tuesday that a worker at Prudhoe Bay had tested positive for COVID-19. It’s the first confirmed case of the disease at the massive oil field in northern Alaska.

During the news conference, Zink originally said the worker was from out of state. However, in a statement Tuesday night, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said that was incorrect.

The employee is an Alaska resident who had previously traveled out of state, the statement said. The person was included in Alaska’s count of 133 cases, according to Clinton Bennett, a spokesman for the health department. Bennett declined to say which community the worker is from.

“The patient traveled to the North Slope on March 25, and displayed symptoms within two days of arriving,” said Crum’s statement.

Related: Prudhoe Bay worker tests positive for COVID-19, BP says

Across the country, the coronavirus continues its unrelenting spread. By Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 163,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 2,800 deaths.

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

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Tegan Hanlon is the deputy digital editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at thanlon@alaskapublic.org.

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