KETCHIKAN (KDN) — The Ketchikan area’s community risk level for COVID-19 was raised from low to moderate on Thursday after one new positive test result was identified, according to the Ketchikan  Emergency Operations Center.

The new COVID-19 case announced Thursday was deemed a result of community spread, according to an EOC announcement. The individual was symptomatic and was tested at a local clinic. A contact tracing investigation was underway as of Thursday.

An earlier case that involves a Ketchikan High School student and was announced on Wednesday also has been classified as community spread by the EOC.

The EOC noted that the community risk level moved from low to moderate Thursday because three instances of community spread had identified in the past week.

The local case count stood at 81 as of Thursday evening, according to the EOC. Four cases were active at that time.

Ketchikan High School

update

After being closed Thursday for sanitation following notification of the positive COVID-19 test result involving a symptomatic Kayhi student, Ketchikan High School will reopen on Monday for regular in-person learning, according to the Ketchikan School District.

The school already was scheduled to be closed to high school classes and preschool on Friday due to parent-teacher conferences.

In a Thursday statement from the Ketchikan School District, Superintendent Beth Lougee wrote that district office personnel and departments were cleared to be in the building, and several events are slated to occur as scheduled.

These events include regularly scheduled practices and activities, in addition to:

• Clinicals for Kayhi's certified nursing assistant students offsite on Friday.

• A Kayhi drama, debate and forensics virtual meet on Friday and Saturday.

• PSATs on Saturday.

• The drive-through point of dispensing flu vaccine exercise from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

"Staff and students who were instructed by public health to quarantine should not return to school until after they complete their quarantine periods," according to the statement.

The Kayhi student case reported Wednesday was the first instance of a district student testing positive for COVID-19.

Travel mandate 10 changes

Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Thursday issued changes to Health Mandate 10, which provides protocol for travelers entering the state of Alaska.

The changes became effective at midnight Thursday.

The changes to Health Mandate 10 included mandating "strict social distancing" for five days (instead of seven to 14 days) after arriving in Alaska, according to a press release from the governor's office.

The health mandate defines strict social distancing as avoiding public service locations such as restaurants, bars and gyms, and maintaining at least six feet of distance from others in all settings.

Travelers also are "recommended" to be tested a second time between five and 14 days of arriving in Alaska.

Alaska residents who travel outside of Alaska for less than 72 hours are not required to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test. Those travelers "should monitor for symptoms," the release stated.

Prior to the mandate’s update, only travelers leaving the state for 24 hours or less were exempt from testing and quarantine.

Statewide case information

The recent death of a Valdez woman in her 80s brought the state's total number of COVID-19 deaths to 65, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Thursday.

It was not reported on which day the woman died, but her death was announced in Thursday’s summary of Wednesday’s cases.

Uncounted by DHSS was the death of a Fairbanks Pioneer Home resident, according to the Anchorage Daily News, which stated the information was released in a letter to families of the resident.

No additional information was available from DHSS about the resident's death.

Since Oct. 6, more than 20 residents and five staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home.

Alaska on Wednesday continued a trend of triple-digit case numbers, with 153 new resident cases and two nonresident cases reported.

DHSS attributed two of Wednesday's cases to Ketchikan. Cases are counted by DHSS after being recorded by local communities, and state epidemiologists have emphasized that DHSS case summaries are subject to data lags.

Other areas to chart new positive test results on Wednesday were Anchorage (71); the Bethel Census Area and Fairbanks (16 each); Bethel (10); Wasilla (nine); Eagle River (five); North Pole (four); Juneau (three); Chugiak, Kotzebue, Utqiagvik and the Northwest Arctic Borough (two apiece); and Nikiski, Palmer, Soldotna, Tok, Willow, the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Kenai Peninsula Borough north and Kenai Peninsula Borough south (one per).

As of midnight Wednesday, 10,323 resident cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in Alaska, according to DHSS. Of those cumulative cases, 4,819 were considered to be active at that time.

The locations and industries of both nonresident cases tallied on Wednesday were still under investigation by DHSS.

Nonresident cases in Alaska totaled 1,025 on Wednesday, with 398 cases considered active, according to DHSS.

Hospitalizations

Alaska's cumulative total of virus-related hospitalizations ticked up to 355 on Wednesday.

Sixty people were hospitalized as of midnight Wednesday, with 50 of those hospitalizations involving persons positive for COVID-19 — an all-time high for the state, according to the DHSS dashboard.

The remaining 10 hospitalizations involved individuals under investigation for the virus. Seven of the 60 Alaskans who were hospitalized on Wednesday were using ventilators.

Seven of the state's hospitalizations have involved nonresidents.

Statewide risk level

Wednesday marked one month since Alaska last moved to a high risk level, according to DHSS.

The state's risk level is set by the average daily number of cases per 100,000 Alaskans over a rolling 14 day period.

On Sept. 15, the average daily case rate was 10.26. One month later, on Wednesday, the state hit its highest average daily case rate since the start of the pandemic, at 22.18 new cases per 100,000 population.

Six Alaska areas – the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Northwest Region, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the Anchorage municipality, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the "other interior region" are classified individually at high risk levels.

Two Alaska areas were at an intermediate risk level on Wednesday, but close to moving into a high risk level. At an intermediate risk level, between five and 10 new cases are reported per 100,000 residents.

These areas include the Juneau city and borough and the Matanuska-Susitna region, according to DHSS.

Juneau's daily average case rate on Wednesday was 9.6, and the Mat-Su region's average was 9.19.

Testing

In Ketchikan, 18,756 tests have been administered, according to the EOC on Thursday. Results were pending from 143 tests.

The local positivity rate was 0.32 on Thursday, according to the EOC.

Across Alaska, 519,461 COVID-19 tests have been collected, with 12,355 of those tests being conducted within the past week. The statewide positivity rate was a new high of 4.84% on Wednesday.

During a Thursday afternoon media briefing, Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said that rising positivity rates are an indicator of a lack of testing.