Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a press conference in Anchorage on Aug. 11, 2020. (Courtesy Photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a press conference in Anchorage on Aug. 11, 2020. (Courtesy Photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Watch: Gov. Dunleavy holds COVID-19 news conference

Watch live beginning at 5 p.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy touted an influx of equipment and facilities to fight increased COVID-19 spread Wednesday during a news conference.

Increased testing kits, new rapid testing machines, easy-to-use tests for rural hospitals and clinics, supply-chain improvements, 3.5 million pairs of gloves, a new commercial testing lab, a testing site in Nome and more contact tracing personnel are all part of efforts to stymie spread of the coronavirus and address areas of need in case the state’s health care capacity is tested, the governor’s office announced.

Dunleavy said the rising number of new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska, the U.S. and world should be taken seriously but should not inspire panic. He also characterized increasing case counts as unsurprising. The state announced 353 new cases and one death for Alaska on Wednesday, and so far, triple-digit increases have been reported each day this month.

“The next couple of months are going to be difficult, there’s no doubt about it,” Dunleavy said. “As I mentioned, this is occurring in many parts of the world and across the United States. We have a pretty good health team. We have a pretty good understanding of how this virus operates.”

He said all indications are that progress is being made on a vaccine against COVID-19, and that a vaccine could be deployed “at the end of November, into December, January, February, March, April.”

The state has submitted its vaccination plan to the federal government, and in a news briefing Thursday state epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said federal authorities have asked states to be ready to distribute a vaccine by Nov. 15.

“That just means we’re ready,” McLaughlin said. “It’s most likely we’ll start to see a vaccine come to states later than that.”

He emphasized that COVID-19 is both real and highly contagious but less lethal than some early models predicted.

“It’s easily spread, one of the most easily spread in recent memory if not the last 100 years,” Dunleavy said. “If we do become infected, for most of us, it’s not a death sentence but for some of us, it’s very problematic.”

Dunleavy said working together to limit that spread means wearing masks, working remotely as much as possible, avoiding group gatherings and regular handwashing.

“I think if we put in a renewed effort in those areas, it’s going to buy us time,” Dunleavy said.

During the news conference, Dunleavy said he did not plan to enact a statewide mask mandate and instead said such mandates should come from local governments. He cited Juneau’s ordinance as one such example.

There will be discussion of extended the state’s declaration of a public health disaster emergency next week, Dunleavy said. The disaster declaration is set to expire on Nov. 15.

Additionally, Dunleavy “nothing is off the table” in terms of going back to one of the state’s earlier and more restrictive health mandates that limited group gatherings and travel. Hospital and intensive care unit capacity are among the factors that would be considered before reissuing a mandate, Dunleavy said.

“If it looks like it’s getting ahead of us, this virus, then we’ll have a discussion about what mitigating events, procedures, et cetera, we have to take,” Dunleavy said.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 15

Here’s what to expect this week.

Traffic at the Fred Meyer intersection, formally known as Egan and Yandukin drives, in November 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Upgrades at Fred Meyer intersection overnight Tuesday and Wednesday to affect traffic

One lane on Egan in each direction open 7-9 p.m.; northbound traffic diverted 9 p.m.-5 a.m.

A view of Angoon from a floatplane on Friday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
Thayer Creek Hydro project fulfills ‘dream of the elders’

Angoon hydropower groundbreaking comes after four decades of effort, seeks to stabilize future costs

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, June 16, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort Hotel And Convention Center on Feb. 24 in National Harbor, Maryland. Attendees descended upon the hotel outside of Washington, D.C., to participate in the four-day annual conference and hear from conservative speakers from around the world who range from journalists, U.S. lawmakers, international leaders and businessmen. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Trump endorses Dahlstrom for Alaska’s U.S. House seat, criticizes Peltola and Begich

Endorsement could shake up the race, because local Republicans have tended to favor Begich so far.

Customers gather in the seating area of an expanded food court area on Franklin Street on Friday. Reconstruction work that began last fall was recently completed for the facility scheduled to be open between May and September. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Franklin Street facelift: Sites of former Elks Lodge, Glory Hall debut new eateries, housing

Expanded food court opens at former lodge site; donut shop and low-cost apartments replace shelter.

Runners take off from the starting line of the 35th annual Only Fools Run at Midnight at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. The event included a costume contest and 1-mile and 5-kilometer run/walk/wheelchair. The event is being revived this year at 9 p.m. Friday. (Nolin Ainsworth / Juneau Empire file photo)
‘Only Fools Run’ costume-themed fundraising race returns for summer solstice after multiyear absence

5K and 1-mile events will start downtown at 9 p.m. Friday, rather than old tradition of midnight.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, June 15, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, June 14, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read