State medical officer encourages Alaskans to wear homemade masks

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, speaks at a news conference Wednesday, March 26, 2020. (Office of the Governor)

Alaska’s chief medical officer is encouraging Alaskans to wear homemade masks when they go out in public as the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 continues to grow. 

Dr. Anne Zink says it’s one of several things Alaskans can do to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“We’re encouraging people — if you’re going to go out in public, if you’re going to go to the grocery store — to consider wearing a tightly-woven homemade mask to be able to minimize the spread in case you are asymptomatic or early symptomatic,” she said.

RELATED: Listen to our podcast, Hunker Down Alaska, about how people are coping around the state.

Zink made the recommendation at a Thursday evening news conference, where Gov. Mike Dunleavy also gave an update on the number of confirmed cases in the state. By Thursday, 147 people had tested positive for the disease, up from 143 cases a day earlier.

View the Alaska health department’s data here.

The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations also increased by four, to a total of 13, “and thank goodness, no additional deaths,” Dunleavy said. Three Alaskans died in March after they were diagnosed with COVID-19, two in the state and one out of state. 

Both Dunleavy and Zink thanked Alaskans for the efforts they’ve taken so far to try to help slow the spread of the virus, including social distancing. Dunleavy said Alaskans are buying the state time to build up its healthcare system in preparation for a peak of cases. 

“What Alaskans are doing right now is literally saving lives,” Zink said. “We’re not far enough into this to let up the gas yet, we really need to hold that curve.” 

Zink underscored that Alaskans should wear handmade masks, and keep medical masks for health care providers. She also said people need to remember to stay at least 6 feet away from others not in their households — if not more. She reminded Alaskans to wash their hands often and clean surfaces.

More than 5,500 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Alaska.

Read the latest coverage of the COVID-19 crisis in Alaska.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect an adjustment in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by the State of Alaska. There were 147 confirmed cases in Alaska by Thursday, not 151.