ANCHORAGE (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 was 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 Sunday morning, the state had 22 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 response to recent 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 of each other are prohibited from operating.
Alaska villages to ban, restrict air travel amid coronavirus
Multiple Alaska villages have proposed banning or restricting passenger air travel in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Local air carrier Wright Air Service confirmed the company received letters from at least eight rural communities announcing travel restrictions, Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.
The villages of Venetie, Arctic Village, Chalkyitsik and Nulato intend to suspend all passenger flights except for medical emergencies, while Fort Yukon and Huslia aim to restrict non-resident travel, airline employee Brett Carlson said.
Grayling, with a population of 190 residents, has also proposed a ban, suspending travel entirely for 30 days, including from other Alaska villages, he said.
Villages across the state are also considering similar restrictions, including having travelers arriving by plane to self-isolate, as tribal and city officials work to enforce measures protecting isolated Alaska Native communities from exposure.
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.
"It's scary," said Jo Malamute, acting city administrator in the Yukon River village of Koyukuk, with a population of 95.
Koyukuk tribal members decided earlier this week to stop passenger travel to and from the village by planes and snow machines, she said, adding that mail and cargo flights are expected to continue.
Currently, state officials plan to fly a patient with a new case of COVID-19 to a hub city for treatment, rather than send medics and equipment to the village.
Some residents have argued that remote villages have difficulty getting emergency care or sending older patients to receive care in a timely manner.
Regional airline Ravn was not immediately available for questions Friday on the number of communities that have indicated plans to restrict travel.