Recent COVID-19 cases reported in Fairbanks, Palmer Pioneer Homes

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 6:24 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The novel coronavirus has taken hold recently in a pair of state operated assisted living facilities in Palmer and Fairbanks.

Kathy Griffith, a public information office with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, confirmed that five staff members and two residents have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Alaska Veterans and Pioneers Home in Palmer. The first positive case was identified on Aug. 31, she said via email.

“The affected neighborhoods within the home have been closed to visitation and increased testing protocols have been being implemented to help contain the outbreak,” Griffith said.

She said that in order to protect the privacy of the residents and staff, the state doesn’t release the current status of their illness.

At the Fairbanks Pioneer Home, four staff members and four residents have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last month since Aug. 2, said Elizabeth Manning, communications manager for the state health department. Of those, she said in a statement from the department that one staff member and three residents are no longer under quarantine precautions and are no longer considered contagious.

The other three staff members and one resident are still in quarantine, according to the statement.

The Fairbanks Pioneer Home is performing weekly COVID-19 testing for any resident or staff member who isn’t vaccinated, according to the statement. The facility also tested all its employees, regardless of vaccination status, on Aug. 26, and they will all be tested again this week.

“The neighborhood where the four residents who tested positive live has been under regular testing and residents in the other two neighborhoods are scheduled for COVID-19 testing,” the statement reads.

In a follow up email, Griffith explained that each state operated pioneer home sets its own visitation policy “based on current conditions in their community and active cases within the home.”

Currently at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home, Griffith said the one neighborhood that has an active case is not allowing visitors right now. The other two neighborhoods are.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough has one of the lower vaccination rates out of the major regions of the state, with state data showing close to 49% of eligible residents there are fully vaccinated. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has the lowest vaccination rate out of all major regions in the state, with just 39% of eligible people there who are fully vaccinated.

In a recent presentation to the Mat-Su school board, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the local hospital, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, is overrun with cases and people sick with COVID-19.

“You local hospital is overwhelmed at Mat-Su right now with the number of COVID positive patients,” she said. “And we have one hospital in the valley that serves the valley, everything from the dirt bike accident to the stroke.”

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