Rep. Chris Tuck

Rep. Chris Tuck
Chris Tuck

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March 18, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Wednesday, March 18

Dear Neighbors,

Here is today’s update on the coronavirus outbreak and the response in Alaska and nationally.

In the next few days, the Alaska Legislature will be working quickly to pass a state budget and other vital legislation to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

To make this happen the members of the House and Senate will need to work together and put aside party politics in favor of Alaska solutions for Alaskans.

COVID-19 Update: Wednesday, March 18

214,894 COVID-19 cases.  8,732 deaths.  83,313 recovered.

  • Over 9,235 cases in the U.S. with 150 deaths.
  • The coronavirus has been detected in 173 countries and territories.
  • 35,713 cases in Italy with 2,978 deaths.
  • The fatality rate of the coronavirus (COVID-19) far exceeds the fatality rate of the flu.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Alaska is 6.

  • Cases have been recorded in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Ketchikan.
  • One of those infected is an employee at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
  • The O’Neill Building on the UAF campus is closed. (All users are asked to stay home for 2 weeks)
  • Another infected individual is an employee of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. (Borough employees who came into contact with the infected person will self-quarantine for 14 days)
  • 2 men in Fairbanks tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

Governor Dunleavy has ordered all restaurants, bars, breweries, cafes, and entertainment facilities closed until April 1.

  • The restriction does not apply to grocery stores, convenience stores, soup kitchens, and employee cafeterias.
  • Carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery services are allowed.

The Department of Health and Social Services is recommending that childcare facilities stay open “if they safely can do so.”  (Families should consider alternative childcare opportunities, if possible)

The department is asking every childcare site to adhere to the following recommendations.

  • Follow aggressive measures to screen children for respiratory infection and do not allow any ill child into a childcare center.
  • No child who has been outside of Alaska in the last 14 days should be allowed in a childcare center.
  • No one who has a fever or respiratory symptoms should be allowed to work in a childcare center.
  • Keep numbers below 10 for group settings.
  • Cohort kids, keeping the same group of kids together.
  • Adhere to social distancing (at least six feet) to limit mixing.
  • Spend time in well-ventilated spaces as much as possible.
  • Practice frequent and rigorous environmental cleaning.
  • No one over the age of 60 or with underlying medical conditions should be working in childcare centers.

The State of Alaska has issued a health mandate regarding those who travel to Alaska.

Higher Risk: If you have traveled from an area with widespread, ongoing community spread such as Europe, China, and other countries (i.e., a CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice Area) and are entering Alaska within the past 14 days you must:

  • Stay home and avoid contact with other household members.
  • Contact your employer and do not go to work or school for this 14-day period after you return.
  • CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice Area
    China, Iran, South Korea, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City.

Medium Risk: If you have traveled anywhere outside of Alaska, (including the rest of the United States) within the past 14 days you must:

  • Keep your distance from others (about six feet or two meters)
  • This may mean not going to work or school if you cannot safely be distanced from others – especially if you traveled in a location where community transmission is occurring – contact your employer.
  • You must avoid crowded places (such as shopping centers and movie theaters) and limit your activities in public.

Health Guidance for Returning Travelers in the Higher and Medium Risk Groups

  1. Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing.
  2. If you get sick with fever (>100.3°F), cough, or shortness of breath, please call your health care provider.
  3. Do not take mass transportation during the time you are practicing social distancing.
  4. Avoid crowded places (such as shopping centers and movie theaters) and limit your activities in public.
  5. Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).
  6. If you seek medical care for other reasons, such as dialysis, call ahead to your doctor and tell them about your recent travel.

RavnAir has begun risk screening of all passengers and employees.

  • The company is also putting in place an enhanced cleaning program for its aircraft.

The Trump administration is asking all Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. (Stop unnecessary travel)

  • On Monday, residents of 7 counties in Northern California were ordered to “shelter in place.” (7 million people)

A drive-thru testing site has been set up in Anchorage.

  • People can stay in their vehicle and be tested for COVID-19.
  • The facility will be restricted to those with a referral from a health care provider. 

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says utility shutoffs will be suspended for the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility and Municipal Light and Power.

  • Anchorage residents are advised to continue paying utility bills.

The Municipality of Anchorage has declared a state of emergency and closed all municipal facilities where large crowds can gather.

The Alaska Court System has suspended jury trials in Anchorage, Palmer, and Kenai.

  • Trials already underway will continue.

Clinical trials for a vaccine got underway on Monday, March 16.

  • 12 to 18 months until it would be ready for widespread distribution.
  • The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new COVID-19 test that should increase the testing capacity across the U.S.

Alaska is under a public health disaster emergency declaration.

  • A unified command structure has been set up that includes the Departments of Health and Social Services, Public Safety, and Military and Veterans Affairs.
  • Alaskans with coronavirus questions can dial 211 on their phones for information.
  • In places without 211 service, dial 1-800-478-2221.
  • Alaska 211 is a service of the United Way, and phone workers can direct callers to resources and answers.
  • All state operated libraries, archives, and museums have been closed through March 31.
  • Residential school programs should begin sending students home.

The State of Alaska has closed all 507 public schools to students through March 30.

  • The move impacts 137,000 school age children and young adults.
  • Teachers and staff will be doing in-service workdays.
  • All after school activities are canceled.

The Alaska State Capitol Building has been closed to the public.

  • Lawmakers, employees, and journalists will be allowed in the building.
  • All LIOs are closed for in-person activities. LIO staff are available via phone and email.

The State of Alaska has closed visitation at:

  • Department of Corrections
  • Division of Juvenile Justice
  • Military Youth Academy
  • Alaska Psychiatric Institute

The Department of Health and Social Services is closing Alaska’s 6 Pioneer Homes to all visitors, including family.

  • Each of the Pioneer Homes will develop plans to help residents maintain contact with loved ones.

The 2020 cruise ship season in Alaska appears to be in jeopardy.

  • Canada is suspending all cruise ship tourism through at least July 1.
  • Many of the cruise ships that visit Alaska can’t sail between 2 U.S. ports without visiting a foreign country.
  • Prior to the coronavirus outbreak tourism officials were anticipating 1.44 million cruise ship visitors to Alaska in 2020. (Over 1.1 million cruise ship passengers visited Alaska in 2019)
  • Princess Cruises is pausing operations of its cruise ships for 2 months until May 10.
  • Viking Cruises has canceled all cruises through April 30.
  • The U.S. State Department is advising U.S. Citizens to not travel by cruise ship.
  • The CDC has created a special website for information.
  • Hollard America Lines says the cruise ship Westerdam will not be docked in Juneau. Instead, the ship will go to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The University of Alaska is ending in-person instruction.

  • Spring commencement ceremonies have been canceled. (APU also canceled commencement events)
  • Starting March 23rd, the University of Alaska will transition to online classes.
  • The university is also extending spring break by 1 week.
  • The university is limited in-person teaching.
  • The university is cancelling large campus events of 25 people or more through March 31.
  • The University of Alaska system has over 6,500 employees and over 21,000 students.
  • Alaska Pacific University has canceled all in-person classes through Friday, March 20. 

The cargo carrier Matson issued a statement on Monday noting that the company “continues to operate its Alaska service schedule without interruption.

  • Matson will maintain 2 weekly northbound departures from Tacoma to Anchorage.

Everyone must help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

  • Strongly consider postponing large events or gatherings.
  • If you are an individual at increased risk for severe illness, including older adults and persons of any age with underlying health conditions, avoid large crowds.
  • If you have signs of fever, shortness of breath, or cough, call your health care provider.
  • Social distancing: maintain a distance of at least 6 feet apart from others.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home and avoid others when sick.
  • Cover mouth and nose with tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.”

The World Health Organization says the COVID-19 virus has caused a global pandemic.

  • A pandemic is defined by the WHO as “the worldwide spread of a new disease” that affects large numbers of people.
  • The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 killed over 50 million people.

The Alaska Division of Insurance is requiring health insurers to waive cost sharing for COVID-19 testing, office visits, and trips to the emergency room.

  • The waiver applies to in-network and out-of-network providers, facilities, and laboratories.
  • The Division of Insurance is encouraging health insurers to “liberalize telehealth benefits during this period of increased infection.” 


The Economy and the Response

Governor Dunleavy has created the Alaska Economic Stabilization Team to work on way to protect the state economy.

  • The team will be led by former U.S. Senator Mark Begich and former Alaska Governor Sean Parnell.
  • The team will include economic leaders and former elected officials.
  • The Alaska Economic Stabilization Team will work to expedite a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The team will provide regular updates to the Alaska Legislature.

Supplemental funding has been approved by the Alaska Legislature and signed by the governor to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The money will pay for 10 temporary positions to help respond to the coronavirus in Alaska.
  • $4 million in state funding and receipt authority for $9 million in federal funding.
  • $1.3 million for services that transport elders and Mental Health Trust Beneficiaries to healthcare institutions.

The coronavirus outbreak is impacting Alaska’s seafood industry.

  • Currently, ships can’t get into or out of Chinese ports and ships that have visited China can’t get into other countries ports.
  • China is home to 7 of the world’s 10 busiest container ports.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is anticipating an increase in the number of people filing for unemployment benefits.

  • Due to the anticipated increase in claims the department is asking for people to first file a claim online.
  • Unemployment assistance is available for anyone who is “unemployed through no fault of their own.”

Many experts believe the U.S. economy has fallen into a recession.

  • The U.S. economy could shrink by 5% - 10% in the 2nd quarter.
  • U.S. equities have declined by 1/3 in value during the recent downswing. ($9 trillion)
  • It’s likely the entire global economy will fall into a recession.

On Sunday, the U.S. central bank cut interest rates by a full percentage point to near zero. (0 to 0.25%)

  • Interest rates have not been this low since the 2008 financial crisis.
  • The Federal Reserve pledged to buy $500 billion in Treasury securities and $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities. 

I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!

Warm regards,

[signed] Chris Tuck
      Chris Tuck
      Alaska State Representative
      District 23 - Anchorage


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