Ketchikan warns virus spread possible after quarantine break

A person who didn’t follow quarantine procedures created the possibility of community spread.

KETCHIKAN — Officials say a person who didn’t follow quarantine procedures after arriving in Alaska has created the possibility of broad community spread of the coronavirus.

The person went to social gatherings and public places in Ketchikan while awaiting results of a COVID-19 test that turned out positive, officials said.

The person arrived in Ketchikan Saturday and underwent testing for COVID-19. The state says anyone tested on arrival is to quarantine until they receive a negative test result. Under the state rules, one is not to leave a quarantine location except for medical emergencies or necessary medical care.

This person instead attended social gatherings and went to public places Saturday, Sunday and Monday, events attended by many young people, families and residents, officials said. Officials did not say if the person was a resident or a visitor.

The person’s positive test was received Tuesday, and the person is now in isolation ad checked on daily by public health nurses.

“Because this individual did not quarantine after arrival to Ketchikan as directed, there is potential of a wide community spread of COVID-19,” a statement from the city says. “The effects of the social gatherings are far-reaching and there has been a broad ripple effect to many citizens and organizations.”

“I know many of you are angry, hurt, disappointed, and even scared about the impact this may have in our community. I am too, but we are prepared for this,” Ketchikan Emergency Manager Abner Hoage said in video to the community Wednesday night.

He said there is testing and personal protection equipment available.

“While I don’t support the actions of this individual, now is not the time to express words of anger toward someone who made a few bad choices, but rather the time to support them and others in our community who are impacted.

The Ketchikan Police Department is investigating the individual’s actions for possible charges, and public health nurses are tracing contacts the individual had.

State health officials Thursday reported 12 new COVID-19 cases, bringing Alaska’s total to 708 cases involving residents and 89 involving non-residents. Ketchikan has reported 24 cumulative positive cases. There have been 12 COVID-19-related deaths involving Alaskans.

City officials are advising anyone who attended gatherings in Ketchikan where social distancing wasn’t followed or if someone who recently traveled was in attendance to consider self-quarantining for 14 days and to get tested if symptoms like a cough, fever or difficulty breathing develop.

“We urge parents to question your teenagers about their social interactions and consider imposing a quarantine if you have reason to be concerned about a potential close or secondary contact to the positive case,” officials said.

Because of close or secondary contact to the infected person, a public utility office will be closed for at least two weeks and many city department heads and employees are self-quarantining and working from home.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

• This is an Associated Press report.

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