UPDATE: State reports no new cases of COVID-19 Saturday
Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka has confirmed one new case of COVID-19 in Sitka Saturday, the first case reported in the Sitka community.
That case, first reported Saturday afternoon after the official DHSS case count was updated, does not yet appear in DHSS data covering the most recent 24-hour reporting period.
DHSS confirmed Saturday evening that the case will be included in Sunday's case count.
SEARHC officials say the patient is a resident at Sitka Long-Term Care, and was immediately isolated and transferred to Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center.
How the patient was infected is under investigation, and measures have been implemented at Sitka Long-Term Care and Mt. Edgecumbe to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Sitka's healthcare facilities.
Sitka Long-Term Care has followed CDC and Alaska DHSS guidelines according to a release from SEARHC, which says that all SLTC residents have been tested, and that tests have been offered to residents and staff at the Pioneer Home in Sitka. SEARHC says SLTC is closed to outside visitors and staff are screened at the beginning of every shift.
“This confirmed case showcases the persistence of this virus, and the ability for asymptomatic people to spread it within the community," SEARHC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl said in a statement included in the release Saturday. "SEARHC will continue to follow the framework constructed by our Incident Command System (ICS) and implement planned precautions throughout the Consortium.”
The case is the fifth confirmed within a Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium facility.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported no new cases of COVID-19 Saturday. Nine more cases were reported as recovered, bringing the total number of recovered cases to 217.
The department also said no new deaths or hospitalizations were reported. The cumulative number of cases stands at 339 as of Saturday. There have been 36 cumulative hospitalizations of confirmed cases and nine deaths.
shows that Saturday marks the first day in which there have been no new reported cases in the previous 24-hour reporting period since Alaska's outbreak began.
Alaska's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said in a statement that the milestone is noteworthy, but warned Alaskans not to become complacent.
“This is definitely a moment to celebrate but it doesn’t mean we can let our guard down,” Zink said in part. "As restrictions ease in Alaska, we’re counting on Alaskans to keep taking measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in our communities."
Zink says that Alaska's case count is continuing to trend downward while testing is increasing, which she says is due to the "hard work and sacrifices made by Alaskans."
The number of tests completed between Thursday and Friday appeared to have surged by nearly a thousand, with 488 tests completed Thursday and 1,334 tests reported as having been completed Friday — the single highest daily test count since coronavirus testing began in Alaska in early March.
But DHSS said in a press release early Saturday evening that the increased number of reported tests is an anomaly and not reflective of a surge in testing within the last day.
"Through data quality auditing, DHSS data analysts discovered data from the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory that had been initially included in the testing data but had later been removed," the release said in part, saying that the discrepancy has been corrected. "The omission never impacted the DHSS response to positive test results as each positive result was still reported to the Section of Epidemiology, tracked and followed through recovery, with close contacts also notified and tracked."