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Around 20 new COVID-19 cases confirmed at Brother Francis Shelter

Health officials say there is a large COVID-19 outbreak at the Brother Francis Shelter.
Health officials say there is a large COVID-19 outbreak at the Brother Francis Shelter.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 10:07 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage health officials say there are around 20 new cases of the coronavirus at an Anchorage homeless shelter.

This brings the total number of cases at the Brother Francis Shelter to 89 people so far, according to Anchorage’s Emergency Operations Center.

There have been six hospitalizations and at least one death related to the outbreak, according to Dr. Janet Johnston, an epidemiologist with the Anchorage Health Department.

“We are now thinking of it as more of an outbreak across the entire homeless and at-risk homeless population and making sure that we get testing out broadly, not just the single Brother Francis Shelter location,” Johnston said.

A new policy has been implemented by Catholic Social Services, which operates the shelter, to mitigate the large outbreak. If guests leave the shelter during the day, they won’t be allowed to return. The shelter also stopped accepting new clients when the first COVID-19 case emerged in August. In addition, the shelter administers COVID-19 tests three times a week and has added washing stations.

Friday afternoon, Gov. Mike Dunleavy approved $250,000 of Alaska’s CARES funding to be directed to help Brother Francis Shelter.

“Fighting the spread of COVID-19 in Alaska is a priority for this administration,” Dunleavy said. “And these dollars will help Catholic Social Services help the individuals at Brother Francis Shelter who need to stay in one place to get healthy.”

The funds will directly help a group that is experiencing substance use disorders who will be required to remain in their isolation location, a press release from the governor’s office said.

This money is being received through the AK Community Foundation from AK CARES funds.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include new information from Anchorage health officials and the governor’s office about the outbreak at Brother Francis Shelter.

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