COVID Live blog: Alaska Railroad delays schedule - Must Read Alaska
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COVID Live blog: Alaska Railroad delays schedule

Must Read Alaska updates relating to the COVID-19 coronavirus will be included on this running post, where you can see updates throughout the days and nights ahead. Check back for updates.

Send your news tips to suzanne@mustreadalaska.com .

10:30 am, 04/03/2020: The Carlson Center in Fairbanks has been converted into an overflow field hospital, in the event that the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital reaches capacity. Close to 100 cots have been set up, while Fairbanks and North Pole have reported a total of 42 COVID-19 cases to date, most not needing hospitalization.

10 pm, 04/03/2020: The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Center survey results released on Friday show 92% of small employers said they are negatively impacted by the pandemic, up from 76% saying the same just 10 days prior. The survey was taken March 30 among a random sample of 300,000 members of the small business organization.

The survey showed continued decline in the small business sector since the NFIB’s previous similar survey, which was conducted on March 20.

The NFIB on Friday stated, “The severity of the outbreak and regulatory measures that cities and states are taking to control it are having a devastating impact on small businesses.”

10 pm, 04/02/2020: The Department of State says that due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, it is only able to offer passport service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.

Life-or-death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g. parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc) that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 days).

The State Department advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel at this time due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.

3 pm, 04/02/2020: The Alaska Railroad passenger service will be postponed to July, rather than its originally scheduled start date of May 8.

Usually, the summer train season starts with the arrival of cruise ships in Seward and Whittier, where passengers disembark and travel by train to Anchorage and north to Denali and Fairbanks.

  • Aurora Winter Train is suspended through the end of the 2019-2020 winter season
  • Coastal Classic Train has daily scheduled service may begin July 1
  • Northbound service for the Denali Star Train is may begin July 1, with daily bi-directional service starting July 2
  • Glacier Discovery Train returns July 3
  • Hurricane Turn Train:  operates April 2, May 7, and June 4. Standard Thursday-Monday service begins July 2, 2020

10 am, 04/02/2020: From Flowingdata.com comes this handy toilet paper calculator to help you gauge how many weeks you can go before you’ll need to start scouting for toilet paper again:

In short, if you’re a household of two, using 8 sheets per wipe, and wiping 8 times a day, you’ll need about seven rolls to last you two weeks, according to the calculator, which you can adjust according to number of people, number of wipes, and number of squares used. Other variables are noted in the analysis.

8 am, 04/02/2020: Costco announced this week it changed its guest policy to deal with the influx of panic shoppers. As a temporary measure, the warehouse store will allow members one guest per membership card. Previously, members could bring up to two guests with them. The company is trying to limit the number of people in the warehouse to create the social distancing suggested by the CDC.

1:30 pm, 04/01/2020: Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson filed a complaint against Juan Lyle Aune, alleging that Aune profited from the spread of COVID-19 by purchasing thousands of N95 respirators from Alaska stores, and then reselling the respirators on Amazon and eBay for unconscionably high prices. The complaint asks the court to impose a separate $25,000 fine for every such sale Aune made.

“Price gouging is simply unacceptable,” said Clarkson. “The Department of Law is fully committed to taking action against those who would engage in unscrupulous behavior to profit off of COVID-19.” 

According to the complaint, Aune purchased respirators from several Alaska stores, including Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Spenard Builder’s Supply.  On one trip to Lowe’s, Aune purchased the store’s entire supply of 3M N95 Respirators – a total of 293 20-packs.  According to the complaint, Aune told a Lowe’s employee that he was “flipping” the masks for a profit of about $50 per box.   

The complaint alleges that Aune generally purchased 20-packs of N95 respirators for $17 to $23 in local stores, before reselling the 20-packs on Amazon for an average price of $89.25. Aune also sold 20-packs of N95 respirators on eBay for as much as $89.99.  

Alaskans are encouraged to report price gouging, scams, and deceptive trade practices related to COVID-19 to the Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at consumerprotection@alaska.gov or calling at 907-269-5200 or 1-888-576-2529.

9:30 pm, 03/31/2020: Alaska Municipal League has a running list of links to dozens of communities and their current health mandates, including travel bans to and from villages. The link is here.

9:30 pm, 03/31/2020: One the best online patterns for homemade face masks: https://sarahmaker.com/how-to-sew-a-surgical-face-mask-for-hospitals-free-pattern

9 pm, 03/31/2020: The Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center closed public beaches, parks, and playgrounds on Monday.

10 am, 03/31/2020: 88 percent of Americans have experienced changes to their lives since COVID-19 hit the U.S., according to new Pew Research Center data. Twelve percent report their lives have remained relatively unchanged. According to the research, 51 percent of Democrats say their life has changed in a major way, compared to 38 percent of Republicans.

Republicans are reporting less psychological distress: 17 percent of Republicans report “high distress” compared to 30 percent of Democrats.

2 pm, 03/30/2020: The Municipality of Anchorage is setting up an emergency medical care center in the Alaska Airlines Center, located across from Providence Hospital on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. The facility may be able to care for COVID-19 patients who are not needing critical care, but do require some medical care. The facility, usually used for basketball games, has been covered with cots in anticipation of a surge of patients, according to the Emergency Operations Center, now operating out of the Loussac Library. Anchorage, including JBER, Eagle River, Chugiak, and Girdwood, has at least 59 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus.

2:45 pm, 03/29/2020: The “Quick Test” is coming. The number of tests that have been performed in the United States for COVID-19 now exceed 894,000 Americans. Starting April 2, Abbott Labs will be manufacturing 50,000 new test kits a day that give quicker answers. The Abbott “point-of-care” test has received FDA approval and will be available to urgent care clinics next week. It gives a positive result in five minutes and a negative result in 13 minutes.

2:30 pm, 03/29/2020: President Trump said that Cigna and Humana will be waiving the copays on insurance for costs associated with the coronavirus.

2:15 pm, 03/29/2020: President Trump today extended the current federal guidelines on social distancing to April 30. He said the peak for the contagion COVID-19 and death from the virus is expected to come in two weeks from now.

7 am, 03/28/2020: Anchorage has a shortage of personal protective equipment and medical supplies. The following are needed immediately and Anchorage Emergency Operations is asking for donations:
– Non-contact medical grade thermometers, Please see picture attached
Universal Transport Media (for guidance see: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Labs/Documents/LaboratoryTests.pdf#page=23)
– Nitrile exam gloves (no latex gloves)
– N95 masks
– Surgical masks
– Medical gowns
– Face shields which protect eyes
Open and expired PPE are acceptable for donation.  Used PPE is not being accepted.
Homemade cloth masks for use by Anchorage Fire Department that are made to the following specifications:

  • Recommended materials include a single layer of tightly-woven material, such as a dish/tea towel or bed sheets/antimicrobial pillowcases.
  • The materials used must be able to be washed/dried on high heat.
  • Please wash your hands and keep your area clean when making the masks.
  • When completed, please bundle masks in packs of 25 or less in a sealed zip lock bag and drop off at the donation center.
  • Do not make masks if you have any respiratory illness symptoms.
  • Masks will be laundered by AFD before use.

Open and expired PPE are acceptable for donation, however used PPE is not being accepted.

Please take donations to:
CrossFit Alaska
9191 Old Seward Highway
Entrance faces Scooter Ave
Hours of donation: 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM 7 days a week.

6:45 am, 03/28/2020: Late Friday night, President Donald Trump authorized Defense Secretary Mark Esper to order units and individual members in the National Guard and Reserves, as well as “certain Individual Ready Reserve members,” to active duty, the Pentagon announced. The troops will assist with response to the Wuhan coronavirus.

“The Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard when it is not operating as a service in the Navy, are authorized to order to active duty not to exceed 24 consecutive months, such units, and individual members of the Ready Reserve under the jurisdiction of the Secretary concerned, not to exceed 1,000,000 members on active duty at any one time, as the Secretary of Defense and, with respect to the Coast Guard when it is not operating as a service in the Navy, the Secretary of Homeland Security consider necessary.  The Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of Homeland Security, as applicable, will ensure appropriate consultation is undertaken with relevant state officials with respect to the utilization of National Guard Reserve Component units activated under this authority.”

7:15 pm, 03/27/2020: In Ketchikan, the inter-island ferry that operates to Prince of Wales Island will implement a four-day-per-week schedule starting March 28.

The ferry will run Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Passenger service will be limited to essential travel, which means those returning home or traveling for critical medical care, or those transporting essential goods and services. The number of passengers on board has been reduced by 75 percent to allow appropriate space between passengers. More information can be found at the ferry system’s link.

6 pm, 03/27/2020: Alaska is the No. 3 state for the number of citizens tested per capita, said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer. New York is No. 1 in testing.

1 pm, 03/27/2020: Mayor Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage extended the “hunker down” order through at least April 14, but said that date should not be considered a “hard end.” Orders could continue for a while, he said at a press conference today. Berkowitz said property taxes would be delayed for at least a month, and there will be no utility shut-offs for a month. In addition, any state or federal assistance that people receive will not be garnished for municipal fees or taxes due. 

Building permit fees will be reduced by 25 percent, he said, and other fees will be either reduced or rebated, since many permitted businesses like restaurants and bars are not operating.

10 am, 03/27/2020: A Navy hospital ship has arrived in Los Angeles to help with the overflow from hospitals. The USNS Mercy has 1,000 beds and will treat non-coronavirus patients, freeing up local hospitals to focus on the surge of COVID-19 patients

9:30 pm, 03/26/2020: North Pole Mayor Mike Welch was tested Thursday for COVID-19 at Tanana Valley Clinic after experiencing symptoms and being asked to come in for the swab test.

7:30 pm, 03/26/2020: Alaska Medicaid will allow 68-day fills on medications that would normally be limited to 34 days. With the allowed accumulation, this permits a patient to be able to have approximately 10 weeks of medication on-hand. If a specific patient condition warrants, individual exceptions for a day’s supply beyond 68-days can be requested of the pharmacist.

6:32 pm, 03/26/2020: More that 2,400 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Alaska, said Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum. That is less than one percent of Alaskans, but a quick uptick in testing since the first case diagnosed in Alaska just 14 days ago.

5:44 pm, 03/26/2020: KUOW, public broadcasting in Seattle, has decided to stop airing the president’s press conferences on COVID-19 because the station feels they are not factual.

At the same time, President Trump’s approval rating among voters has started to climb in recent days, with the survey site fivethirtyeight.com saying his approval is now over 45 percent.

12:15 pm, 03/26/2020: At least 81,321 people in the U.S. are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

11:45 am, 03/26/2020: The Port of Seattle has delayed the Alaska cruise season indefinitely.

11 am, 03/26/2020: The second phase of the congressional relief package that passed the Senate will bring $1.5 billion to the State of Alaska. It will also deliver rapid relief to small businesses, and expand unemployment. It will send a surge of resources to medical professions, said Sen. Dan Sullivan. It must be approved by the House.

7:28 am, 03/26/2020: State officials have corrected information about how many are hospitalized in Alaska due to COVID-19. The correct number as of March 25, 2020 is 3.

11:30 pm, 03/25/2020: Mayor Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage has said the city will not enforce the mandatory 10-cent fee per paper bag that the city requires merchants charge their customers. However, he did not say merchants may issue single-use plastic bags for merchandise and groceries.

11:25 pm, 03/25/2020: Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines, Fairbanks Distilling Co., and Amalga Distillery in Juneau are all now making hand sanitizer instead of whisky.

10:40 pm, 03/25/2020: A second employee of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. This individual is included in the current count of 59 in Alaska who have been stricken with the virus.

10:35 pm, 03/25/2020: Royal Caribbean has extended the suspension of its cruises through May 12. “Because of announced port closures, we expect to return to service for Alaska, Canada and New England sailings July 1, 2020,” the company said. Norwegian Cruise Line is cutting pay and moving to a four-day work week for most staff.

3 pm, 03/25/2020: The current case count in Alaska is 44. An employee of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus. Another Fairbanks person, a patient of the Tanana Chiefs Conference’s Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center, has also tested positive. l

3 pm, 03/25/2020: Jake Metcalfe, the executive director of the largest state employee union in Alaska, is seeking an injunction against the Dunleavy Administration to force all nonessential state employees to work from home for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. He also wants the court to mandate staggered work hours and social distancing rules for all state employees.

The Alaska State Employees Association represents 7,500 state and municipal employees across the state.

10 am, 03/25/2030: The United States is the world’s third-most infected country by the Wuhan coronavirus. To date, the top three are:

  • 81,661 China
  • 74,386 Italy
  • 60,115 US

5:15 pm, 03/24/2020: The Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan have been postponed by the International Olympics Committee, for about a year.

3:45 pm, 03/24/2020: The U.S. Department of Education has stopped collections of federal student loans that are in default.

3:33 pm, 03/24/2020: First COVID-19 hospitalization is in Juneau at Bartlett Memorial Hospital. This is the second case in Juneau and the person is in the critical care unit. The person had been traveling in Washington State and Portland, Oregon, both known hot spots.

Meanwhile, the case count is up to 39 in Alaska, with two more having been identified in Ketchikan. This brings the total of positive cases in Ketchikan to eight. These two individuals, upon experiencing symptoms of illness, self-quarantined and sought testing through the Creekside Family Medical Clinic. The testing was processed by a private lab. The two do not have a history of recent travel, so these are considered community transmission cases.

8:45 am, 03/24/2020: Alaska Airlines will eliminate 200 flights per day through March 31. This is a 15 percent reduction of its normal flights. The airline is parking 30 jets from its fleet of 230 aircraft. Flights to Hawaii will be extremely limited and the airline will stop flying to Costa Rica, although for now it will keep its Mexico and Canada routes.

8:30 am, 03/24/2020: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a shelter-in-place order Monday evening, something he had been pressured to do for several days. Washingtonians are not to leave their homes except for critical tasks in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

7:46 pm, 03/23/2020: Three Bears market has instituted a ban on the use of personal multi-use shopping bags.

“Our grocery store workers are on the front lines of COVID-19, working tirelessly to keep our community fed. With identified community transmission, we ask that shoppers keep their reusable bags at home given the potential risk to Three Bears customers and employees,” the store notified shoppers, effective at all locations immediately. The stores are located in Wasilla, Palmer, and Kenai.

3:15 pm, 03/23/2020: First National Bank stock price went through large price swings today on the stock market before ending sharply lower.

The current stock price is $176, having recovered from its low of $125 at the close of trading. It appears some entity that owns stock in the bank may have dumped the stock this afternoon.

9 am, 03/23/2020: AlaskaUSA Federal Credit Union has temporarily closed several branches and curtailed operates at others:

Branches temporarily closed: 

  • 36th Ave
  • Abbott
  • N. Eagle River
  • Juneau St
  • W. Dimond
  • W. Northern Lights
  • N. Pole
  • W. Fairbanks
  • Parks Hwy
  • Vintage Park 

Branches with drive-up and appointment services open Monday – Friday, 11 am to 6 pm: 

  • C St
  • DeBarr
  • Dimond
  • Eagle River
  • East DeBarr
  • Huffman
  • JBER
  • Northern Lights
  • W. Abbott
  • Airport Way
  • Steese Hwy
  • Homer
  • Kenai
  • Soldotna
  • Palmer
  • Wasilla
  • W. Parks Hwy
  • Glacier Hwy 

In-Store Branches open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 11 am to 6 pm: 

  • Bethel
  • Ketchikan
  • Kodiak 

8 am, 03/23/2020: PeaceHealth Medical clinics are closed Monday and Tuesday in Ketchikan after two caregivers who work there tested positive for COVID-19. The medical center is one of the largest employers in Ketchikan.

11:15 pm, 03/22/2020: FEMA has set up a rumor control web page pertaining to COVID-19, available at this link.

11 pm, 03/22/2020: Juneau has cancelled its Fourth of July parade. The Fourth of July parade is the biggest community event of the year.

10:30 pm, 03/22/2020: Anchorage Office of Emergency Management reminded residents that the Hunker Down order is in effect in Anchorage as of 10 pm Sunday.

Emergency Order EO-03 directs Anchorage residents and businesses to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the chance of Anchorage hospitals becoming overwhelmed and unable to treat those who need urgent medical care, the department wrote.

When left unchecked, this virus spreads exponentially. Some models show that without an order to hunker down, hospitals could become overwhelmed within weeks. The predictions of these models are borne out by what is happening in other communities that waited too long to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Hunker Down order mandates that non-critical businesses close their premises, and that residents stay home as much as possible.

“Non-critical businesses encompass any business that is not specifically exempted as a critical business. This includes (but is not limited to):  shoe stores, hair salons and barber shops, nail salons, clothing stores, makeup stores, jewelry stores, car dealerships (service and parts may remain open), tattoo parlors, acupuncture, art studios, and sporting goods stores, in-home housekeeping services, babysitting (except to provide support for critical workers). This is in addition to the closure of gyms, movie theaters, indoor recreation centers, bowling alleys, and nightclubs that were closed.

“Non-critical businesses must close their premises; it is not acceptable to simply transform to a curbside or delivery business as that still places too many workers and customers in harm’s way for a non-critical purpose.

“The emergency order includes a list of critical businesses that can continue to operate while implementing social distancing techniques to the maximum extent possible—including switching to curbside or delivery service.

“The critical business list includes health care operations, grocery stores, convenience stores, maintenance and operations of critical infrastructure, first responders, criminal justice personnel, critical government functions, defense and national security-related operations, food cultivation, social services, journalism, gas stations, banks and other financial institutions, hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, mailing and shipping services, laundromats, educational institutions for the purpose of distance learning, restaurants (for takeout and delivery only), transportation services, hotels, childcare facilities (to serve workers in critical jobs only), and some legal and accounting services. For a full list, refer to the emergency order. These businesses should incorporate remote working whenever possible and adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines including maintaining six feet between people.”

9:15 pm – 03/22/2020: Anchorage police will begin wearing personal protective gear — things like masks and nitrile gloves — when physically interacting with the public. This doesn’t necessarily mean that COVID-19 is presenting the situation, but that police are protecting themselves from unnecessary exposure. Also, dispatchers and officers will be asking people questions related to COVID-19 exposure to help prevent exposure.

All community engagement activities and events, such as the ride-a-long program, Coffee with a Cop, public appearance requests and more, have been suspended until further notice. The APD front lobby at its headquarters is closed.

8:30 pm – 03/22/2020: The Seattle Times did not print its Sunday edition today due to the restrictions and general conditions caused by the COVID-19 virus. The newspaper was founded in 1891 and has been operated by the Blethen family since 1896. A note from the publisher advised:

5:30 pm – 03/22/2020: Sitka has been given a “hunker down in place” strong recommendation, issued by the Sitka Emergency Unified Command. Sitkans are asked to stay home in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. If residents need to shop for groceries, they may do so if they do not believe they have been exposed to the virus. Work from home as much as possible. Non-essential businesses are urged, but not required to close for 14 days. Those picking up or dropping off at the airport are urged to use curbside, and not go inside the airport. Anyone traveling into Sitka must quarantine in accordance with DHSS mandates.

4 pm – 03/22/2020: The current count of COVID-19 cases in Alaska is 22.

3:38 pm – 03/22/2020: An update on donating blood to the Blood Bank of Alaska. Please call 907-222-5600 to schedule an appointment. The staff will schedule you in.

11:06 am – 03/22/2020: Homeless men in Anchorage are being moved into the Sullivan Arena, while homeless women are being moved into the Ben Boeke Ice Arena next door. They are being given sleeping pads that are spaced six feet apart.

10:30 am – 03/22/2020: The current count of COVID-19 cases in Alaska is 21.

10 am – 03/22/2020: Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced on Sunday, adding “he is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.”

11 pm – 03/21/2020: Gov. Mike Dunleavy has launched a web page devoted to the work of the Economic Stabilization Team.

The page contains links for Small Business Administration loans, unemployment insurance, home mortgage assistance, and other resources that will be added as details are firmed. Share this page with those who may need help.

9:50 pm – 03-21/2020: Senior citizens in the Mat-Su Valley are getting some needed support from the Santa Cop and Heroes program, which applied for and received a $50,000 grant from Southcentral Health Foundation to provide 400 food kits to seniors 60 and older in the valley. Contact them at this link and get on the list for a food drop if you are running low of food, have no family support, and you meet the age qualifications.

8:30 pm – 03/21/2020: New testing protocols for Alaska have been put in place by the Department of Health and Social Services, in response to a shortage of equipment.

Testing supplies are running low. Until the shortage is resolved, health care providers are now prioritizing testing to specific groups. Health care providers do not need to call the Alaska Section of Epidemiology to approve testing, but those patients who are asymptomatic may not be tested. Here is what the testing technicians are being advised:

Patients who have a clinically compatible illness (e.g., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) AND at least one of the following criteria should be considered for testing:

12 pm – 03/21/2020: North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward announced an emergency declaration on Friday. The declaration will help with the procurement of aid and assistance from State and federal agencies when they become available. The borough is home to nearly 100,000 Alaskans and encompasses Eielson Air Force Base, Salcha, Fox, Two Rivers, and Chena Hot Springs.

11:30 am – 03/21/2020: Kenai Borough offices are closed to the public. Borough employees will still conduct government business under modified work schedules during regular business hours Monday – Friday. Those who can, will work from home, while others will come to work and practice the recommended guidance to ensure safe workspaces. You can also find contact information by department at www.kpb.us.

The Central Peninsula Landfill and transfer sites will continue to remain open to the public. Steps have been put in place for staff and the public’s protection. Please follow directional signage and staff instructions.

Dispatch and Fire/EMS will maintain operations; however, public will not be allowed to enter these facilities. First responders are following guidance specific to call outs. Nikiski Fire Service Area will continue their potable water service to residents with modifications.

Kenai Borough residents are asked to use the drop box located by the main front doors of the Borough Administrative Building (BAB) to deposit payments or department-specific documents, or mail delivery:

Kenai Peninsula Borough
Attn: Department Name
144 N. Binkley Street
Soldotna AK 99669

8 am – 03/21/2020: Anchorage medical community is experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment such as nitrile gloves, face masks and medical gowns. They are asking providers and businesses to donate. Due to global demand, there is no definitive shipping date for more these items. The national demand for PPE and Alaska’s distance from suppliers, avoiding PPE shortages in Anchorage will require stretching existing supplies as long as possible. The following is needed immediately:

  • Nitrile exam gloves (no latex gloves)
  • N95 masks
  • Surgical masks
  • Medical gowns
  • Face shields that protect eyes

Please take Personal Protective Equipment to:

CrossFit Alaska
9191 Old Seward Highway
Entrance faces Scooter Ave
 
Hours of donation: 9 am – 5 pm, 7 days a week.
For questions, email covid-19@anchorageak.gov or call 907-343-4019

4:30 pm – 03/20/2020: The City and Borough of Juneau implemented voluntary temperature checks for travelers arriving at the Juneau International Airport. Passengers with a temperature of 100.4 F will be advised to contact a medical provider and to self-quarantine.

4:15 pm – 03/20/2020: A shortage of testing swabs has led Anchorage Office of Emergency Management to ask doctors to donate swabs, or the current Anchorage supply will be exhausted on Sunday. Due to global demand, there is no definitive shipping date for more swabs.

The following swabs are needed immediately:
Nasopharyngeal swab with synthetic tip (ex. Dacron, Nylon, Polyester), with non-wooden shaft. NP swab should have sterile tube containing 2-3ml viral transport media (VTM)
Please take swabs to:
Drive Thru COVID19 Testing Site
4115 Lake Otis Parkway

Please use the back entrance/ employee parking lot (behind the tan and brown building). Hours of donation: 9:00 AM- 7:00 PM 7 days a week.

3:30 pm – 03/20/2020: Must Read Alaska has learned that Mayor Ethan Berkowitz will order all Anchorage residents to shelter in place beginning this evening.

3:25 pm – 03/20/2020: An employee of the office of the Vice President has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement.

“This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus,” wrote Pence Press Secretary Katie Miller. “Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual. Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

11 am – 03/20/2020: President Donald Trump said the U.S. Department of Education will not require standardized testing for students in elementary through high school for the current school year.

10 am – 03/20/2020: The Anchorage Health Department and satellite locations have limited services to phone and appointments only, effective March 19.

Many services and benefits will be available via telephone or limited to in-person appointments; no in-person business or services will be available without an appointment. The contact numbers for the resources are:

• Community Health Nursing: 343-4799
• Aging and Disability Resource Center: 343-7770
• Women, Infants and Children: 343-4668
• Child Care Licensing: 343-4758
• Environmental Health (Food and Air): 343-4200
• Community Safety and Development: 343-4822
• Main Number: 343-6718

9:42 am – 03/20/2020:

How many cases? 255,729 worldwide. Known in Alaska: 12. Every person typically infects two others.

– Did it start in a Wuhan lab? The coronavirus may have originated in a government laboratory 300 yards from the Wuhan fish market where the authorities say the outbreak started, the Daily Mail reports.

– California is sheltering in place: 40 million Californians have been ordered to stay home indefinitely, only going out for essential jobs, errands, and solitary exercise, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. He warned the public that the patients who are contracting the coronavirus — 1,000 now in the Golden State — may soon overwhelm the state medical facilities. 

– New York going into lockdown: Gov. Cuomo is shutting down all non-essential businesses across the state, leaving just grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential operations open. He is banning all non-solitary outside activity, like outdoor basketball games and other team sports and he is requiring all non-essential government and private-sector employees to work from home, starting Sunday.

– President Trump has closed almost all traffic but commercial trucks at the southern border with Mexico.

– The Trump Administration has postponed the IRS income tax deadline to July 15.

10:15 pm – 03/19/2020: The U.S. Supreme Court has closed its building to the public and postponed its March argument session, which was to begin March 23.

10 pm – 03/19/2020: Funerals and weddings are among the events now banned in Washington State, as the epicenter of the coronavirus tries to get a handle on social distancing.

10 pm – 03/19/2020: Alaska Public Offices Commission is closed to walk-in traffic until further notice. APOC offices will remain staffed and will continue to serve the public and respond through alternative forms of contact including post mail, email, fax, and telephone, during its normal business hours of 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

9:45 pm – 03/19/2020: Although the Blood Bank of Alaska is in need of blood, it’s asking for a voluntary 28-day deferral for anyone who has traveled out of state and to foreign countries in the last five weeks, and a 28-day deferral for donations for all travel out of state.

2:50 pm – 03/19/2020: An active-duty Airman has tested positive for COVID-19 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The member recently returned from overseas travel and is following public health protocols while self-quarantined at his or her off-base residence. 

JBER officials have ordered Health Protection Condition Bravo and are continually monitoring the situation while working closely with local, state and federal agencies.

12:50 pm – 03/19/2020: Anchorage Police Department has closed its front counter at its headquarters due to a significant drop in public visits. As a result, APD has put together resources to helping the public online and/or via the phone.

During this time, the traffic citations will be handled via paying by phone at 907-786-2429.

Correctible citations can be handled APDFixItTickets@muni.org.

Subject line should be your last name and citation number. Attach these necessary documents, as appropriate:         

  • Proof of insurance- Photo: must show you had insurance at the time the ticket was issued.
  • Proof of Registration- Photo: must show documents of registration from the DMV and photo of license plate with the new sticker on your vehicle.
  • Headlight/Taillight- Photo: must show vehicle with lights on and license plate visible.
  • Window Tint- Two Photos: must show entire driver side door of vehicle and include photo from front of vehicle showing license plate.
  • Proof of Driver’s License- Call 786-8600, ext 2.

11:30 am – 03/19/2020 – Simon Malls, owner of the Fifth Avenue Mall in Anchorage, has closed all of its malls across the nation until March 29.

“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” the company wrote.

8:40 am – 03/19/2020: The U.S. State Department will announce a Level Four travel advisory instructing all Americans abroad to return home or to shelter in place because of the global threat of the coronavirus. This is its most stringent warning. Just four days ago, the department raised the travel advisory to Level 3, with strong recommendations. Under Level Four, Americans will be strongly advised not to travel abroad.

8:40 am – 03/19/2020: The U.S. embassies in Mexico have suspended routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services starting March 18, 2020, and until further notice. The U.S. Embassy and consulates will continue to provide essential consular services to U.S. citizens in Mexico as well as emergency visa services. The closure will effect the seasonal labor supply for American farms and fisheries.

11:32 pm – 03/18/2020: Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau has instituted screening for patients and visitors for symptoms of COVID-19, along with travel history and possible exposure to the virus. Families, staff, and departments in the hospital are restricting access and enforcing visitor control policy, including:

For hospitalized patients:

  • Limit one visitor on the units at any time.
  • No visitors are allowed in the Hospital from 8 p.m. – 6 a.m. overnight, unless accompanying a newly admitted patient or a maternity patient.
  • No visitors under age 16.
  • Visitation rules may be more restricted on units and floors with patients who have reduced immune systems or special populations.

Exceptions: End of life” situations, minor patients (≤18 years old) may have two visitors but this is limited to only parents or guardians, and individuals with significant physical disabilities are limited to one support person in addition to a visitor.     

11:25 pm – 03/18/2020: Homer Mayor Ken Castner declared an official emergency in response to COVID-19 in Alaska and in support of COVID-9 prevention measures being implemented throughout the Borough and the State. The declaration will be effective for seven days, and then may extend if the City Council ratifies it at its meeting on March 23. The declaration creates a unified command structure with local responder agencies and South Peninsula Hospital.

4 pm – 03/18/2020: The known positive cases in Alaska increased by three on Wednesday, increasing it the total to nine. Two of the new cases are in Anchorage, one is in the Seward area. All three are travel related, with one coming from Europe, and the other two from the Lower 48.

3:30 pm – 03/18/2020: The first member of Congress to test positive for the coronavirus is Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican who represents southwestern Miami-Dade County.

2 pm – 03/18/2020: Alyeska Resort has closed the ski area for the remainder of the season. closing its ski area for the remainder of the winter season. “As of today, March 18, 2020, all Alyeska Resort mountain operations, including lifts, aerial tramway, rentals, Mountain Learning Center and restaurants will be closed. Our decision to close the resort was not easily made but we feel these measures are necessary out of concern for the health and safety of our community, guests, employees, and the surrounding communities of Southcentral Alaska,” the management wrote on Facebook.

2 pm – 03/18/2020: Canada and the United States have restricted non-essential travel across the border. Both countries say supply chains will not be impacted, but travelers going north and south for recreational or tourism purposes will be turned back. key supplies will still flow between the two nations. President Donald Trump posted a note on Twitter this morning.

12 pm – 03/18/2020: The U.S. Census has suspended field operations for at least two weeks. The Census Bureau is asking everyone to respond online at 2020Census.gov. Door-knockers will not be utilized for now. The Census will continue to accept online, phone and mail responses.

9 am – 03/18/2020: Pikka, the oil prospect hope for the Alaska economy, has been deferred by Oil Search until prices improve. Oil is in the low 20s today.

8:45 am – 03/18/2020: Seattle area is running out of masks, leading volunteers to start making them by hand for hospitals.

A group of volunteers at Providence St. Joseph Health on Tuesday started sewing surgical masks and constructing face shields with marine-grade vinyl, strips of foam, elastic bands, and double-stick tape.

8 am – 03/18/2020: Blood Bank of Alaska is low on O negative and O positive blood donors and need continual blood donations of all blood types in order to meet the need for blood in Anchorage and throughout Alaska. To meet current blood needs, 700 donations are needed in the coming weeks.
 
The Blood Bank of Alaska is taking donations by appointment only in order to ensure the safety of donors and staff. To donate call 907-222-5630  or visit www.bloodbankofalaska.org to make an appointment

9:25 pm – 03/17/2020: Amazon has suspended receiving nonessentials such as TVs and toys in its warehouses so it can focus on stocking household staples and medical supplies. The crush of orders forced the decision as Americans are avoiding stores and placing orders online for everyday goods.

8:25 pm – 03/17/2020: A Canadian government official told The Seattle Times on Tuesday that Canada and the US are working on announcing a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries.

8:25 pm – 03/17/2020: Hospital systems in Seattle are reporting two dozen hospital workers have been infected with the coronavirus, putting a strain on the medical infrastructure at the heart of the outbreak in the U.S.

7:20 pm – 03/17/2020: The State of Alaska is closing all bars and restaurants statewide on Wednesday at 5 pm, except for take-out food or deliveries, as well as other closing facilities, such as bowling alleys, by order of the chief medical officer.

The Department of Health and Social Services is also suspending all long-term services and supports that occur in “congregate settings,” including senior centers, adult day services, and any site-based day habilitation or supported employment activities where individuals gather together. 

5:40 pm – 03/17/2020: The Port of Alaska remains open and the shippers are on a normal shipping schedule. COVID-19 has not disrupted the arrival of goods to Alaska, according to a news release from the Municipality.

“Food and supplies are at normal levels in Anchorage, and demand is currently high, creating empty store shelves. More goods are on the way, however delays of about one week in restocking shelves may happen due to the time it will take from time of order to stocking shelves in Anchorage and Alaska. The Municipality encourages residents to be patient as store shelves are restocked.”

5:20 pm – 03/17/2020: The State Department of Health and Social Services has issued guidelines for parents whose children attend day care centers:

 The department, per CDC recommendation, is advising that child care facilities stay open if they safely can do so. Health officials do not want children to be cared for by elders, because people aged greater than 60 years are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Employers are encouraged to talk to their workforce. We also know that children, while they may carry the disease, get sick from COVID-19 much less frequently than adults.

The guidance for child care centers is thus:

  • Follow aggressive measures to screen children for respiratory infection and do not allow any ill child into a child care center.
  • No child who has been outside of Alaska in the last 14 days should be allowed in a child care center.
  • No one who has a fever or respiratory symptoms should be allowed to work in a child care center.
  • Keep numbers below 10 for group settings.
  • Cohort kids, keeping the same group of kids together.
  • Adhere to social distancing (at least six feet) to limit mixing.
  • Spend time in well-ventilated spaces as much as possible.
  • Practice frequent and rigorous environmental cleaning.
  • No one over the age of 60 or with underlying medical conditions should be working in child care centers.

Families should consider alternative child care opportunities, if possible.

5 pm – 03/17/2020: A mobile testing station has been set up by Providence in a parking lot on Lake Otis Blvd., right next to Bernie’s Pharmacy:

Mobile testing began on Tuesday, next to Bernie’s Pharmacy, in an adjacent parking lot on Lake Otis Blvd.

3:30 pm – 03/17/2020: Johns Hopkins University says that over 100 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus in less than one month since the community spread of the virus was first reported on Feb. 26. There are now over 5,894 confirmed cases and 105 deaths, and 200,000 cases globally.

3 pm- 03/17/2020: The Alaska Democratic Party has closed its headquarters on Fairbanks Street in Anchorage. The five employees of the party are working remotely. The Alaska Republican Party, which only staffs its offices part time, could not be reached for comment.

The City and Borough of Juneau has declared an emergency, allowing it to draw in more help from the state and federal government for health and safety measures, and purchase needed emergency supplies. The resolution of Monday night will assist local business as they apply for federal loans and assistance. 

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly held a special emergency meeting on Tuesday. Among agenda items was sending a letter to Alaska’s congressional delegation, urging suspension of the Jones Act. The assembly will also discuss emergency measures and the lifting of cumbersome borough code during the emergency.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Come see the Great Alaska Homeless Show.
    Starting this weekend at the Sullivan and Ben Bokey arena.
    Watch the antics from the safety of your car. Free admission.

    • Akwhitty:
      It is hard to find words in response to your so very unkind and inappropriate post. It is so mean and unfairly unsympathetic to the point that I find it unbelievable that anyone could feel the way that you do. You should be ashamed!

    • @AKWHITTY
      Well done. Your comment demonstrates nothing more than your utter lack of empathy. You appear insecure.

      People who are homeless, for whatever reason, are likely to be affected as badly or worse than others, they don’t deserve to be demeaned because of it.

      • Shut down the pathetic legislature. But first, issue early PFD, including back logged checks from criminal Bill Walker regime. Stimulate economy during this emergency. Shoot recall organizers. God save Alaska! Pray for everyone, even the deranged and heartless.

    • Self Quarantine when you are homeless for whatever reason is kind of hard don’t you think you pompous as*.

      • Sorry didn’t mean to call you pompous.

    • You’re rude

  • Thanks Suzanne,

    Your postings have evolved into clear and factual, straightforward, necessary and actionable information which can help your readers gain the proper perspective on a very real crisis.

    I only wish all your readers can begin to also take this crisis as seriously and begin to respond as if their lives, their health and safety, and that of others depended on it, because that is very much the case.

    • I’m especially thankful to see the information we spoke about being clarified, and confirmed as to the probability of children being active vectors for virus transmission to parents and grandparents.

      Refutes those ill-advised comments posted here earlier.

      • Careful, don’t throw out your shoulder patting yourself on the back!
        .
        Your politically motivated comments and misinformation have done nothing but add to the panic.
        .
        If you actually cared instead of telling people they shouldn’t hug their children (during a time of crisis) you would have said that sending people out into public passing around a clipboard and pen to gather signatures was a problem, but you’ve been silent on that subject haven’t you?
        .
        Why would you support the transmission of this disease when it supports your political reasons but be opposed to comforting a child with a hug during a time of need?

  • Not at all.
    It’s a choice for so many, if not all street merchants. The ones that want help have myriad ways to get off the street. Alaska housing supports 4,000 apartments for the needy trying to get on their feet. Catholic social services and more provide help.

    • We won’t debate how big a turd you are right now. The stench is sickening.

  • “Oil is in the low 20s today.”
    So much for that $Trillion that Trump just dumped in the stock market.
    Spending will not cure the “futures” bubble that just popped.
    All future government subsidies to big businesses like oil, Cruise and Airlines should come with tighter industry regulations.
    How can these companies pay out $Billions to shareholders each year and have NO reserves?

    • The place is in chaos and you are worried about frosting on cake.

    • What trillion was that?

      • The “magic” trillion. Didn’t you see it?

        Sheesh. Some people’s kids.

  • We need thermal scanners to see if people have a temperature of 98.6F or greater. The rest of the world is doing this, but we are not. This maddening. I am trying to tell the our governments, but I haven’t got anyone to listen yet. This why Taiwan has only 50 cases of the C-19 virus in the whole country. They stop most of them from coming in in the first place. The started doing it since 2003 and the SARS outbreak. We need them at public building and transportation, especially at the airports.

  • Boo who
    Been saying for two years the bubble will burst.

  • People flying in from down south need to be tested.

  • The Governor just told the legislature they need to give us our pfd. Looking real bad for the house majority.

    • The irony is that the “house majority”, isn’t in terms of representing Alaskans.

  • He also just said no school till May 1st so it may be over folks.

  • Greed is not Good !
    Politicians should be required to take an oath to that…and imprisoned if they break that bond.
    If you take the PFD, you are a thief.
    Manipulating the language so you can steal the PFD is wrong!

  • When is the house majority signing the checks?

  • Appreciate the continued updates! I am wondering though if any more info on the stricken Fairbanks hospital employees. Were they medical staff or other staff such as HR, admin etc. ?

  • As of this writing, nothing regarding the Mayor’s new decree can be found on the Muni website – no orders – no evidence to support orders – not even a press release. This is not governance. This is a joke. Please start behaving like a grown-up, Mr. Mayor.

  • With the state capital a ghost town, and Dillingham the same way very soon with no processors, the fishing season is over before it started. Just wondering if anyone in Dillingham or in the Bristol bay area could use a $1000 check that the Governor wants us to have? Anyone? Beuller?

  • It’s easy to see that “Republicans are reporting less psychological distress: 17 percent of Republicans report “high distress” compared to 30 percent of Democrats” when you read the comments here and other places. I’m kind of surprised it’s not a higher differential, the left is all in a panic still and some on the far right are confusing basic quarantine law with surrendering their freedom. The media on the left is still pushing that we weren’t prepared and that the end is nigh even though all the data is showing this virus isn’t as deadly as initially thought and a little common sense would go a long ways.

  • Look at Sweden’s response, this should be Alaska’s.

    • Sweden is worth keeping an eye on, but right now their mortality rate is 30.2 per 1,000,000 people and in the US it is 18.6 per 1,000,000 people in Alaska we are around 3 per 1,000,000 people. Perhaps their government run Healthcare isn’t helping those numbers just like all the other government run Healthcare countries with higher numbers per 1,000,000?

      They are worth keeping an eye on though, people will be studying this entire global event for years to come…lot’s of lessons to be learned.

  • Just saw this in The Hill:

    “San Francisco is banning reusable shopping bags to prevent outside germs from entering grocery stores as the coronavirus pandemic affects cities around the country,

    The new ordinance from the San Francisco Department of Public Health aims to reinforce existing social distancing protocols by restricting customers from bringing their own bags, mugs, or other reusable items to essential stores, according to a statement.

    San Francisco was one of the first cities in the U.S. to ban the use of plastic shopping bags in 2007 to reduce the environmental impact caused by plastic waste, according to SFGate.com.”

    If this is happening in San Francisco, the mother-ship of all “wokeness” shouldn’t that compel Comrade Ethan to do the same for Anchortown, forthwith???

    • Anchorage already addressed that days ago.

      • By not charging 0.10$ for paper bags? That’s not exactly addressing the problem at all.

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