ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued orders Friday to restrict in-state travel and Alaskans’ public activities in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The orders came as the state announced the second death of an Alaska resident related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The mandates take effect Saturday and will be re-evaluated April 11, state health Commissioner Adam Crum said.
One bars in-state travel between communities unless it is to support critical infrastructure or for critical personal needs, such as getting essential health care or engaging in subsistence activities. Certain small communities off the road system would be allowed to adopt more restrictive measures.
Dunleavy said the travel restriction does not apply to legislators, who have been working to complete their most pressing work in Juneau.
The other order — a social distancing mandate — aims to restrict Alaskans’ movements. Dunleavy said it’s OK for people to go outside for exercise but stressed they maintain their distance from one another. Alaskans are encouraged to limit trips to the grocery store and ordered to not participate in gatherings of any size that include non-household members, such as weddings or faith gatherings.
Nonessential businesses also are ordered closed though some can keep operations running if employees exclusively work from home.
The Alaska Native Medical Center on Friday announced a patient’s death from complications due to the coronavirus. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, described the patient as a woman in her 60s with underlying medical conditions.
Alaska’s first death related to COVID-19 was an older person in a high risk group who contracted the virus and died in Washington state.
Figures released by the state health department late Friday showed 85 known cases in which someone in Alaska had tested positive. Of those, 43 were from the Anchorage area.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young said the coronavirus is an “urgent public health emergency,” the degree of which he did not grasp weeks ago.
Young, in a speech earlier this month to older Alaskans and members of the Palmer and Wasilla chambers of commerce, characterized virus concerns as overblown.
The virus “attacks us senior citizens. I’m one of you. I still say we have to as a nation and state go forth with everyday activities,” the 86-year-old said on March 13, as reported by the Anchorage Daily News.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says adults 65 and older are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
In a video released by his office Thursday, Young did not specifically reference the speech, but he said the virus’ impacts are real.
“Weeks ago, I did not fully grasp the severity of this crisis, but clearly, we are in the midst of an urgent public health emergency,” he said.
He urged Alaskans to follow CDC recommendations and any state or local government directives.