Interior Unified Command Responds to Increasing COVID-19 Cases
Alaska's resident COVID-19 case count has topped 755. There are also two new non-resident cases, bringing that total to 106. Recovered cases are now 475.
Local cases of COVID-19 are also on the rise, including two cases of employees at Tanana Valley Clinic, announced Thursday and a worker at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital announced Friday. The TVC employees were believed to become infected outside of their workplace. Nevertheless, 44 patients of the clinic might have been exposed and were contacted Thursday night and Friday.
The hospital employee was asymptomatic, and reported for testing when she learned she might be in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus disease.
With the increase in local cases, the hospital now has a new dashboard showing just Interior Alaska cases. It is on the hospital website at FoundationHealth.org. It shows the 31 Interior Alaska cases that have been identified in June.
The Unified Incident Command has responded and held its first public meeting in more than a month last Friday. Clint Brooks, Chief Operating Officer of Foundation Health Partners, explained the command extended its contract to use the Carlson Center. The arena has been kept at a “warm ready” status to serve COVID-19 patients if the hospital’s capacity is exceeded.
“We do have a trigger point for activating the Carlson Center, and that’s FMH’s census in two designated areas, and that number is 50. Currently we are at 28.”
One third of the state’s 755 positive cases were documented since the start of June. With the increase people seeking confirmation, a backlog of 600 unprocessed tests has built up this month.
Dr. Angelique Ramirez, Medical Director of Quality, Foundation Health Partners says there still are delays in getting test kits from the state health department.
“Our oldest pending test is from the 11th. That’s why we’ve taken to sending more tests outside, to a commercial reference lab.”
Incident Commanders expect an increase in positive case numbers when those tests are eventually processed.
Up to now, Alaska’s public health department has been able to track every single confirmed case in the state, whether Alaska residents or visiting workers. It is done by public health nurses, like Elizabeth Hawk-Burton, who is in charge of the Fairbanks Public Health Center.
“We have somewhere between 80 and 90 public health nurses across the state. We have staff on-call every night, and both weekend days, with about 17 nurses each day. We are continuing to recruit quite robustly to add additional staff.”
She says each COVID-19 patient is counseled and contacted regularly, usually daily, until their recovery.
Testing is now available at the hospital, the Interior Community Health Center, Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center and many private providers. The hospital’s COVID helpline is 458-2888.