Monday coronavirus count: State reports 19 new cases; Providence outbreak continues

Another 19 Alaskans have tested positive for the coronavirus, including the first case in the Southeast community of Wrangell, according to a data update on Monday from the state health department.

That brings the total number of cases among Alaskans to 563, with about 68% of the residents considered recovered from the disease so far, according to the state’s data through the end of the day Sunday.

The double-digit case increase follows spikes in diagnoses over the past week as Alaska’s economy continues to open back up. Also, on Saturday, major changes went into effect for travelers to Alaska. Now, they can get tested for the disease instead of quarantining for two weeks.

Related: The state has revised its two-week quarantine requirement. Here’s what we know about the changes.

The total number of hospitalizations and deaths remained unchanged on Sunday, at 48 and 10 respectively. Also, the state reported no new cases among nonresidents in Alaska. So far, 46 nonresidents have tested positive for the disease, most of them seafood workers from out of state.

Providence outbreak continues

The number of coronavirus cases at Providence Health & Services’ East Anchorage campus continues to grow. It’s the state’s largest coronavirus outbreak at a single facility.

By Monday afternoon, 25 caregivers and 16 patients had tested positive for the disease at the Providence Transitional Care Center — up 12 cases from Friday. Patients typically stay at the center for weeks as they recover from surgeries or injuries, before heading home or to assisted living.

Providence says it first became aware of the infection at the facility in late May. One of the patients developed a fever and a cough, and got tested. Providence then tested the entire campus.

The transitional center shares a campus with Providence Extended Care, which mostly serves older people. Extended Care has recorded its first case of the coronavirus, according to an update posted online on Sunday. A caregiver tested positive and is quarantining at home, said Providence spokesman Mikal Canfield. So far, no residents at the facility have tested positive.

Canfield said the new cases are the result of a second round of testing on the campus. He expected the rest of the test results to come back over the next few days.

He said two people have had to be hospitalized.

Canfield said he did not have information Monday about how many of the new cases are included in the state’s count. The state updates its data daily based on the prior day’s numbers. A spokesman for the state health department also said he did not immediately have the information.

Haines and Wrangell record first cases

Of the 19 new cases announced by the state from Sunday, it says 11 of the Alaskans are from Anchorage, two are from Homer, two are from Wasilla, one is from Juneau, one is from Soldotna and one is from a small community in the Kenai Peninsula Borough that the state has not named.

The first Wrangell case is a female patient who showed no symptoms, according to a statement Sunday from the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

After receiving the positive test, she was immediately isolated and continues to quarantine at home, the health consortium said. Health officials are investigating who she may have come in contact with.

Also, on Monday, the Southeast community of Haines confirmed its first local case. The man is currently isolating at home, said Borough Clerk Alekka Fullerton.

“It’s gone from a theoretical risk to a real risk,” she said. “So we are just asking people to remember to wear masks, wash their hands, social distance, sanitize regularly and please take this seriously.”

The Haines case will likely be included in the state’s count on Tuesday.

Related: Tustumena crew member tests positive for COVID-19, passengers quarantined

Alaska’s tally of coronavirus tests administered in the state grew by about 1,000 on Sunday, to nearly 66,000.

State health officials have continued to issue reminders to Alaskans that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t over. The state has also issued recommendations for summer gatherings, advising people to keep their distance, wear face coverings and wash hands often. 

“Gathering helps us feel hopeful and connected during a really hard time, but we have to do it as safely as possible,” Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said in the online post detailing the recommendations.

“This is not the time to have close contact and face-to-face conversations with others at large or small get-togethers,” she said. “It’s the time to be creative, to come up with new ways to see people and socialize but still keep distance from others.”

Claire Stremple from KHNS contributed reporting to this story. 

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