Officials say state must increase health care capacity to handle virus

10 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska, one more in Juneau

There are 10 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including one in Juneau, said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink Thursday evening.

That brings the total number of cases in the state to 69, though Zink said only three people were currently being hospitalized.

Zink spoke via telephone at a press conference in Anchorage with Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum.

Five of the new cases were in Anchorage, two in Fairbanks, and two in North Pole, Zink said. Plus, the Juneau case. Of the new patients, four are male, six female.

Zink began by noting the United States had surpassed China in the total number of cases Thursday. The virus was spreading quickly and current modeling shows the state’s current health care infrastructure was insufficient to handle the predicted number of cases the state will eventually have.

[Dunleavy says ‘all options are on the table’ for COVID-19 response]

“We can’t get enough beds, enough people, unless we socially distance,” Zink said.

The state is working on building up its health care capacity, she said, but because this was a new virus with worldwide impacts, there is a need for personnel and equipment everywhere.

The state was going to need, “the who, the what, the where,” Zink said.

“We’re going to need the people, we’re going to need the beds,” she said. “It’s a huge production to provide intensive care.”

Social distancing was integral to easing an eventual strain on the state’s health care services, Zink said. She and the governor repeated entreaties that people do everything they can to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“We haven’t found a state or a country that’s had the ability to deal with the surge, the world is not prepared for a pandemic such as this,” Dunleavy said. “Do we have the capacity to deal with this surge? The answer is no. We are building our health care capacity up as quickly as possible.”

The governor also mentioned the several bills recently passed by the legislature which will provide relief to various groups negatively affected by the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Dunleavy thanked health care workers and others who are working to help prepare the state for the growing emergency. He said his administration would be holding a press conference Friday at 1 p.m. to discuss travel and economic relief in Alaska and what that might look like in the near future during, “what experts predict will be a surge in cases.”

• 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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