ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The mayor of Anchorage has announced his third emergency order in response to the coronavirus pandemic as more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in the state and the city’s supply of swabs needed to test for the disease run low.
Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issued the “hunker down” order Friday, telling residents to stay at home as much as possible, KTVA-TV reported. The order is effective Sunday at 10 p.m. until March 31.
On Saturday, the mayors of Ketchikan, Saxman and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough in southeast Alaska issued a joint proclamation telling residents to stay at home as much as possible. As in Anchorage, grocery stores and other essential businesses will remain open.
As of Saturday night, the state has 15 cases of people with the coronavirus, according to the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for the elderly and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of those who are infected recover.
“I’m asking people to do the right thing,” Berkowitz said during a conference Friday alongside representatives from Providence Health and Services Alaska, Alaska Regional Hospital and Alaska Native Medical Center.
The announcement comes after Berkowitz first prohibited dine-in operations, movie theaters and gyms and then ordered medical workers and private businesses to conserve all stocks of personal protective gear for front line health care workers, including gloves, gowns and face masks.
The Anchorage Fire Department also announced the testing swab shortage in a statement Friday.
“Based on the current demand of 250-280 tests a day, Anchorage will run out of tests by Sunday,” the department said, adding that they have asked medical providers to donate swabs to the drive-thru testing site on Lake Otis Parkway.
In a news conference, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy confirmed two more cases of the coronavirus, bringing the known state total up to 14. One was confirmed to be a travel-related case in Ketchikan, while the other is under investigation in Fairbanks.
In response to the new cases, the state Department of Health and Social Services has ordered a statewide closure of public and private schools through May 1. In addition, gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in Fairbanks and Ketchikan areas and businesses where people have to be within six feet (1.8 meters) of each other are prohibited from operating.