Dunleavy has signed an emergency declaration due to ‘slow-moving storm’ of coronavirus spread

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy briefs reporters at his Anchorage offices Wednesday on the state’s preparations to fight the coronavirus, which has yet to be confirmed in Alaska. Dunleavy announced an emergency declaration that he said would allow the state bureaucracy to respond to the virus more nimbly. (Photo by Nat Herz / Alaska Public Media)

Anticipating what he describes as the coronavirus’ inevitable spread to Alaska, Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed an emergency disaster declaration Wednesday to free up additional resources to help the state prepare.

At his third consecutive daily news conference at his downtown Anchorage office, Dunleavy compared the situation to a slow-moving storm.

“We can see it coming. We just wanted to gear up now,” he said.

There were no confirmed coronavirus cases in Alaska — 60 tests have been done, with 46 negative and 14 still pending as of midday Wednesday. But “we’re anticipating that’s going to change,” Dunleavy said.

“It’s going to be in Alaska,” he said. “It’s probably here now.”

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink stresses the importance of slowing the spread of the coronavirus at a news conference at Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Anchorage office on Wednesday. (Photo by Nat Herz / Alaska Public Media)

The declaration allows the state to access federal money and will help expedite government processes as it makes plans to fight the virus, he said.

The state is also now confident it can perform more than 1,000 tests, health officials said.

Related: State of Alaska is exploring options for housing people quarantined for coronavirus

Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said the challenge now is to get hospitals and outpatient clinics set up to run tests. Zink also warned that people who are used to getting health care in Seattle should be checking with their providers because the health care system in the city is overloaded.

Alaska’s Energy Desk editor Julia O’Malley contributed to this story.

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

Follow our continuing coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska.

Nathaniel Herz is an Anchorage-based journalist. He's been a reporter in Alaska for a decade, and is currently reporting for Alaska Public Media. Find more of his work by subscribing to his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com. Reach him at natherz@gmail.com.

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