Anchorage hospital reports coronavirus death

It’s only the second Alaskan death.

  • Friday, March 27, 2020 5:43pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE— An Anchorage hospital on Friday reported a patient’s death from complications due to the coronavirus, only the second virus-related death of an Alaska resident.

The Alaska Native Medical Center announced the patient died Friday in the hospital.

Hospital officials say the patient was seen Monday for an unrelated reason and tested positive for the virus that day. According to officials, the state laboratory reported the results on Wednesday.

Officials say the patient was doing well and self-isolating at home. But on Wednesday the hospital’s emergency department was notified the patient’s condition was quickly deteriorating, and the individual was advised to return to the medical center.

Officials said the patient was immediately isolated.

Figures released by the state health department late Thursday showed 69 known cases in which someone had tested positive. Of those, 33 were from the Anchorage area. Updated figures are expected later Friday.

Alaska’s first death from the coronavirus was an older person in a high risk group who contracted the virus and died in Washington state.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The mayor of Alaska’s largest city announced Friday a two-week extension to his “hunker down” order telling residents to stay home as much as possible, as more coronavirus cases around the city and state are confirmed.

An initial order issued by Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz was set to run until March 31. It now extends to April 14.

The mayor’s spokeswoman, Carolyn Hall, said the new extension date is somewhat arbitrary because the virus “kind of goes at its own pace.”

Hall said the extension also applies to other restrictions, including a ban on dine-in restaurant service. Restaurants may still be open for pickup, delivery and drive-through services, and theaters and gyms are closed.

Hall said the city also plans to defer the due date for property taxes by at least one month.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered through 5 p.m. April 1 the closure of businesses such as gyms and theaters and hair and suspended dine-in service at restaurants, bars and breweries. He recently said he was likely to extend those restrictions.

Also by a state order, public and private schools are closed to students through May 1, with students to receive instruction remotely.

Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young said the coronavirus is an “urgent public health emergency,” the degree of which he did not grasp weeks ago.

Young, in a speech earlier this month to older Alaskans and members of the Palmer and Wasilla chambers of commerce, characterized virus concerns as overblown.

The virus “attacks us senior citizens. I’m one of you. I still say we have to as a nation and state go forth with everyday activities,” the 86-year-old said on March 13, as reported by the Anchorage Daily News.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says adults 65 and older are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

In a video released by his office Thursday, Young did not specifically reference the speech, but he said the virus’ impacts are real.

“Weeks ago, I did not fully grasp the severity of this crisis, but clearly, we are in the midst of an urgent public health emergency,” he said.

He urged Alaskans to follow CDC recommendations and any state or local government directives.

• This is an Associated Press report.

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