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March 6, 2020
Coronavirus Concerns and Prevention
A new virus circulating across the globe is causing alarm because it's spreading quickly and is more deadly than the flu. The virus is named COVID-19, but it's commonly called the coronavirus.
COVID-19 was first detected late last year in China, prompting the Chinese government to impose the most extensive quarantine in human history. Currently, over 150 million people in China are under lockdown due to the coronavirus. Despite that effort, the coronavirus has spread to 96 countries and territories, including the United States.
Coronavirus symptoms look similar to cold or flu symptoms, but what sets the coronavirus apart is that it's much more deadly. The mortality rate for the flu is about 0.1 percent, while the COVID-19 mortality rate is currently between 2.5 to 3.4 percent. The high COVID-19 mortality has prompted governments across the globe to mobilize their resources to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Rep. Tuck asking a question during a coronavirus update for members of the Alaska State Legislature on March 4, 2020.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Alaska State Legislature canceled all committee meetings so the members of the House and Senate could get an update on the coronavirus from the Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska. Dr. Anne Zink confirmed that so far, there are no cases in Alaska. However, Dr. Zink stressed that the state is preparing for an outbreak.
The State of Alaska activated an emergency operations center on January 24 and is currently working closely with healthcare providers and federal, tribal, and municipal officials to make sure Alaska is ready to respond when the coronavirus shows up.
As part of the effort to be prepared, Governor Dunleavy is asking the Legislature for a supplemental appropriation of $4 million in state funding and receipt authority for $9 million in federal funding. This money will be used to hire more public health nurses and people with specialized training in epidemiology and microbiology.
Here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Brain Injury Awareness Month
At the urging of a brain injury survivor from Anchorage, I am sponsoring House Concurrent Resolution 14, proclaiming March 2020 as Brain Injury Awareness Month in Alaska. Right now, millions of people worldwide are living with brain injuries, and it's estimated that every 9 seconds someone in the U.S. sustains a brain injury. 50,000 people die every year from traumatic brain injuries, and it's estimated that between 3.5 million to 5.3 million Americans live with long-term disabilities resulting from traumatic brain injuries.
One of the goals of HCR 14 is to raise awareness of the prevalence of brain injuries, which are an under-recognized public health problem that can cause a variety of physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that everyone is at risk for traumatic brain injuries, especially children and older adults.
The other goal behind HCR 14 is to raise awareness of the ways to prevent brain injuries. Two easy ways to prevent these injuries are to always to wear a seat belt and to always to wear a helmet when riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmachine, ATV, or skateboard.
The first hearing for HCR 14 was Thursday in the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee. The hearing featured the testimony of Annette Alfonsi, who serves as the Alaska Coordinator for the Unmasking Brain Injury Project. Her story of how her life changed after suffering a brain injury in a rollover car accident inspired me to introduce HCR 14 and moved the members of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee to take the unusual step of passing the resolution out of committee during the first hearing. The committee's quick action allows the resolution to be considered by the full House of Representatives during March, which just so happens to be Brain Injury Awareness Month.
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