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State announces 13 coronavirus death

Five are recent.

The Department of Health and Social Services announced Tuesday 13 more Alaskans died with COVID-19, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic started.

Five of the deaths were recent, DHSS said in a news release, the other eight were announced following the review of death certificates.

All but one of the deaths were aged 60 or older, according to DHSS, the youngest was a Bethel man in his 30s.

The announcement comes as authorities in the state urge Alaskans to be more diligent about health mitigation strategies such as masking, social distancing and hand washing. Monday afternoon, DHSS released a statement saying the current surge in COVID-19 cases in the state was straining the public health response and creating a backlog in case and contact investigation.

[Health officials seek help with virus notification]

“We remain committed to doing everything we can to fight this pandemic,” said DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum in the news release. “However, we’re at a point in this pandemic when we truly need everyone’s help. We’re urging Alaskans to reduce risks and take action to protect themselves, their loved ones and our communities.”

Contract tracers have been unable to keep up with all the new cases and their close contacts, something public health officials say it critical to tracking and containing the spread of the virus.

“We acknowledge that what we’re asking may be very difficult,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer. “Remember anyone can get COVID. There should be no stigma associated with this highly infectious disease. If you are identified as a close contact, please quarantine immediately and remain in quarantine for a full 14 days. And if you need help, please ask for support.”

Public health officials are asking those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 to call their own close contacts. Close contacts of people confirmed positive for COVID-19 are asked to quarantine for at least 14 days, and get tested for the virus around day seven, DHSS says. Even if the nest is negative, close contacts are asked to stay in quarantine.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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