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Anchorage Health Department issues public health advisory

The Anchorage Health Department Building
The Anchorage Health Department Building
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 12:02 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s News Source will livestream the announcement on our Facebook page and our website here when it begins on Wednesday at 12 p.m.

The Anchorage Health Department and Acting Anchorage Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson have issued a public health advisory.

The advisory urges all Anchorage residents to stay home as much as possible, wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from others in public, avoid gatherings and limit in-person interactions with people who are vulnerable to COVID-19.

The advisory comes as Anchorage and Alaska experience a surge in COVID-19 cases. The Department of Health and Social Services has placed both the Municipality of Anchorage and the state at a high alert level for having more than 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

“In just the past four days, there have been more cases reported than there were for the first four months of the pandemic,” the advisory states.

The AHD COVID-19 dashboard shows cases are trending in the red, and all other indicators for health care capacity and contact tracing are in a yellow zone.

Hospital officials say staffing is the primary concern Anchorage faces as staff who are quarantining due to COVID-19 cannot work in the facility.

“The numbers of our caregivers in quarantine continue to increase on a daily basis,” said Ella Goss, chief executive at Providence Alaska Medical Center.

The majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Alaska Regional Hospital were exposed to someone who was not wearing a mask, CEO Julie Taylor said.

“I would just ask you to think about that as you’re questioning the futility of wearing a mask,” Taylor said.

Anchorage is still in modified phase two of reopening with some restrictions on “medium and high-risk operations" including capping indoor events at 30 people, capping outdoor events at 50 people and limiting bars, restaurants, gyms and recreational facilities to 50% capacity.

Kevin Berry, assistant professor of economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage said the economy is further impacted when COVID-19 cases are high because people are less likely to go out into the community. Anything that reduces COVID-19 transmission — like wearing masks, hand washing and occupancy restrictions — will make people feel safe enough to engage in the economy again. “The key driver behind the economic negative shocks is the virus, is COVID-19,” Berry said.

Bill Popp, the president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., gave a plea for people to wear masks or stay at home so that businesses can stay open.

“Business will not fully recover until the pandemic is under control,” Popp said

Quinn-Davidson was sworn in as acting mayor on Oct. 23 after former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz resigned following the disclosure that he had an inappropriate messaging relationship with local news anchor Maureen “Maria” Athens several years ago.

“Following those health practices protects people and the economy,” Quinn-Davidson said at the announcement.

As acting mayor, Quinn-Davidson said she would make decisions informed by economists and health care professionals while offering Anchorage leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These are times that call for stability and measured leadership. This is what I intend to provide,” Quinn-Davidson said at her swearing-in ceremony. “My promise to you is to listen, to work hard and to lead with compassion and reason.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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