Alaska counts its first COVID-19 death

Resident was ill and died outside of state

The total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 42 and an Alaska resident has died after contracting the illness outside the state, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said at a press conference in Anchorage Tuesday.

The person died in Washington state, said Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, and had been outside of Alaska long enough that state officials did not believe the deceased contracted the virus in the state. Zink said the person was older and had health problems.

Although the person died outside of the state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules dictated that person be counted as an Alaska death Zink said.

“We’ve lost an Alaskan and we have an Alaskan that’s hospitalized,” Zink said.

During the press conference, Zink and Dunleavy said the mandates issued by the state effectively act as a shelter at home order even if no specific mandate bears that title.

Both Zink and Dunleavy emphasized that individual choices to social distance were going to make more of an impact than government mandates.

The governor said he understood it would take time for people to get used to the changes, but eventually habits would change.

As long as people were able to stay six feet apart, there was no need to issue a “shelter-in-place” order as other states have, Zink said.

“We want people to go for a walk,” Dunleavy said. He added it would be beneficial to their physical and mental health to get outdoors.

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly passed a resolution Monday night asking residents to stay inside as much as possible.

Dunleavy also spent a portion of the press conference discussing the ways in which Alaskans will need to rise to meet the state’s challenges.

He said there are manufacturers in the state that will begin making equipment necessary to combat the coronavirus outbreak such as personal protective equipment and sanitizer, he said.

“We’ve got to be more independent in our health care,” Dunleavy said. “Alaska is mobilizing.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

Information on the coronavirus is available from websites for the City and Borough of Juneau, the State of Alaska at coronavirus.alaska.gov and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to contact their health care provider.

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