State’s top doctor says bars have been linked to seven outbreaks of COVID-19

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said during a news conference on Tuesday that he would use things like coronavirus case counts and hospital capacity to consider whether to change state health policies.

When asked if he would impose restrictions on bars, Dunleavy said he will evaluate state data over the next week or two. 

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“Looking at our bed counts, looking at all of the metrics that we have – based upon that, we will make decisions on advisories, protocols and other steps if we need to,” Dunleavy said. “Everything is on the table to fight a pandemic.” 

Dunleavy credited Alaskans’ behavior with leading to some of the lowest case counts in the country. 

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Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, speaks at a news conference, March 23, 2020. (Creative Commons photo by Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

But cases have increased in recent weeks. And Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said though these cases are in different parts of the state, bars have been at the center of some of the spread. 

“Just over the past weekend, we had seven cases in seven different bars that had tested positive with a lot of different outbreaks,” Zink said. “Bars right now are really a high-risk activity. And so if you do attend a bar — particularly indoors — know that that’s a high-risk activity and you really need to minimize your contact with others, particularly those who are vulnerable for the next 14 days afterwards. We’re just seeing more and more outbreaks associated with that.”

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Zink said Anchorage hospitals — which serve as a hub for health care in the state — are running at roughly 80 percent capacity.