Patient at Anchorage transitional care center is Alaska’s latest coronavirus death

The Providence Transitional Care Center shares a campus with Providence Extended Care in East Anchorage. (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)

Another Alaskan has died from COVID-19 after more than a month of no fatalities linked to the disease among residents.

The person was a patient at the Providence Transitional Care Center in East Anchorage — the site of the state’s largest coronavirus outbreak.

The patient tested positive for the virus and then was hospitalized, said Mikal Canfield, a spokesman for Providence Health & Services Alaska, which operates the transitional center. The patient died at the Providence Alaska Medical Center on Sunday, he said.

“This resident was a cherished member of the PTCC family, and we are deeply saddened,” Canfield said in a statement. “We extend our sympathies to their family and loved ones in their time of loss.”

Canfield declined to provide the patient’s age or information on any underlying medical conditions, citing patient privacy.

The patient is the 11th Alaskan to die with the virus. The state reported the death on Tuesday, along with another double-digit, daily increase in coronavirus cases. By the end of the day Monday, 11 more Alaskans had tested positive for the disease. So had two more seafood workers from out of state.

Related: King Cove confirms first local case of COVID-19 in seafood industry worker

Six of the newly-diagnosed Alaskans are from Anchorage, two are from the Kenai Peninsula Borough, one is from Nome, one is from Kotzebue and one is from Haines, which the borough reported on Monday. It’s the first case in the Southeast Alaska community.

Also, the health department said Tuesday that it had reclassified a previously reported case after further investigation. A case described as an Alaskan in the Kenai Peninsula Borough is actually a nonresident seafood worker.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the new cases are linked to the ongoing outbreak at Providence’s East Anchorage campus.

Health officials confirmed the first case on the campus on May 29. A patient at the transitional care center had developed a cough and fever, and tested positive for the infectious disease. Providence then tested the hundreds of patients, residents and caregivers on the campus. It recently completed a second round of testing.

By Tuesday, 17 patients and 26 caregivers had tested positive for COVID-19 at the transitional center, Canfield said. That’s about a third of the center’s patients and nearly 20% of its staff. Patients typically spend weeks at the center as they recover from injury, surgery or illness before heading home or to assisted living.

Also, a caregiver at Providence Extended Care has tested positive for the disease and is quarantining at home, Canfield said. The extended care facility serves mostly older people who live there for years. It shares a campus with the transitional center.

Canfield said Tuesday that Providence was still waiting on some results from its second round of testing. It planned for a third round at the end of the week.

Canfield said caregivers are using N95 masks and face shields, and patients are directed to stay in their rooms. The campus is closed to visitors, unless they’re seeing someone at the end of their life, he said.

Health officials continue to investigate how exactly the first patient became infected with the virus, Canfield said. They believe the patient acquired it in the facility.

The coronavirus has been shown to spread in similar settings across the country, where people live in a confined space. The virus is particularly deadly among older people and those with underlying medical conditions. The New York Times reported last month that one-third of all U.S. coronavirus deaths were tied to long-term care facilities for older adults.

The number of new coronavirus cases reported in Alaska each day has reached the double-digits several times over the past two weeks, after more than a month of small, daily increases. The state started to lift coronavirus-related limitations on businesses in late April and removed them completely in late May.

By the end of the day Monday, the state had recorded 573 coronavirus cases among Alaskans: 389 of them are considered recovered, 173 of them are active cases and there are 11 deaths. Two of the Alaskans died out of state.

The last coronavirus-related death before Sunday’s was reported in early May. A man from Anchor Point who was older than 80 and had pre-existing conditions died at a Kenai Peninsula hospital. Before that, a 33-year-old woman from Wasilla died in April. She also had pre-existing conditions, state health officials said.

State health officials say a death is included in its coronavirus data if the person was confirmed to have COVID-19 through a lab result and then died during the course of having the disease or through complications related to the disease. It is also included if the medical examiner conducts a death investigation which results in a positive COVID-19 lab test.

The health department on Tuesday also reported another person has been hospitalized with the disease in Alaska, bringing that total to 49 since the state started tracking the coronavirus in March. As of Monday, 12 people were currently in the hospital who either tested positive for the virus or were awaiting results.

The total number of tests administered in the state has reached 66,890, up nearly 1,000 from a day earlier. The total number of nonresidents who have tested positive for the disease is now 49.

Also Tuesday, the state transportation department announced another six Alaska Marine Highway employees from the Tustumena ferry have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to seven. The seven crew members will remain in isolation on the Tustumena. Health-care workers are monitoring them, the department says.

Those six new cases will be included in the state’s case count on Wednesday. The state’s daily data update is based on the prior day’s numbers.

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

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of new cases in Alaska reported by the state on Tuesday. There were 13 new cases, not 14. A case the state previously reported and described as an Alaskan on the Kenai Peninsula was reclassified on Tuesday as a nonresident seafood worker after further investigation, the health department says. It is a not a new case.

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