29 more Alaskans test positive for virus in highest daily count yet as active cases continue to rise


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Alaska has surpassed its record for coronavirus cases recorded in a day, with 29 new resident cases spread around the state, according to new data from the state’s health department Saturday.

The number of Alaskans who have tested positive for COVID-19 now totals 654, with another 70 nonresidents in the state — an increase of five from the previous day — confirmed to have the virus.

While 405 Alaskans have recovered from the illness, the number of active cases totals 237 statewide, the highest tally since the state began tracking COVID-19 in March. At the start of the pandemic, cases began climbing and the number of active cases peaked April 2, at 188. Alaska, now progressing along a second curve of rising coronavirus infections, exceeded that threshold for the fourth straight day Saturday.

Starting in early April, daily case counts began dropping and recoveries steadily increased. For much of May, the number of active COVID-19 cases didn’t peak over 50 total and daily case counts remained in the single digits.

Then a second wave of cases began after the state relaxed pandemic-related restrictions in an effort to boost Alaska’s economy. State officials said they expected an uptick in cases but believed that Alaska had the health care capacity to manage it.

On May 31, the state recorded 27 new cases, which at that point was the highest daily increase seen yet. Some of those cases were tied to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Providence Transitional Care Center in East Anchorage among residents and caregivers. The deaths of two Alaskans this week — the state’s 11th and 12th virus-related fatalities — occurred among residents of the facility.

There’s also been a steady increase in virus cases within the Kenai Peninsula Borough. On Wednesday, the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said the state was sending more public health nurses to the area.

Of the 29 new cases reported Saturday, four involve Homer residents and two involve people from smaller communities in the southern part of the Kenai Peninsula.

Another of the new cases involves an Alaskan from a smaller community within the Nome Census Area. The Norton Sound Health Corp. announced Saturday that a resident of a Bering Strait region village was isolating after testing positive for the virus. The health corporation “will be sending out a response team to conduct testing for close contacts and other community members who wish to be tested,” the release said.

The new cases also include seven Anchorage residents, one person from Eagle River, one person from Houston and one person from Palmer.

In the Interior, one resident of Fairbanks and two residents of North Pole also tested positive for the virus.

In Southeast Alaska, three Ketchikan residents tested positive, as did two people from Craig, two people from Sitka and one person from Wrangell.

The Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center announced Friday that five people who traveled there Wednesday received positive results after getting tested at the Ketchikan airport.

The Ketchikan cases were included in the state’s updated numbers on Saturday and listed as Alaska residents, but according to the state’s health department, that may change as more information emerges.

State data also shows one new hospitalization among people confirmed to have COVID-19.

The cases announced Saturday reflect positive test results recorded throughout Friday.

Five people who are not from Alaska also newly tested positive for the virus, data show. Those cases involve a seafood industry worker in the Kodiak Island Borough, a visitor to the Fairbanks North Star Borough, a tourism worker in the City and Borough of Juneau, and people who are listed under “other” categories in Wrangell-Petersburg Census Area and the City and Borough of Juneau.

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