Alaska’s top doctor lays out four ways to reduce COVID-19 exposure

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink speaks at a news conference on COVID-19 in Anchorage on March 25. (Creative Commons photo by Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said that Alaskans can slow the spread of COVID-19 by minimizing contact with micro-droplets from others in the air.

During a news conference with Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday, Zink said that one of those risks is enclosed spaces. 

“So the more you can keep those windows open, with the light out and the more you can be outside, the better off we’re all going to be,” she said.

The other risks include spending more time near others, being in dense crowds, and forcefully exhaling air, like through sneezing, coughing, yelling and singing. 

The risks are becoming clearer as scientists spend more time studying how the coronavirus spreads.

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Zink said face coverings are now seen as more important in stopping the disease’s spread than they were early on. 

“I think there was so much focus initially kind of on touching surfaces and the data has just become more and more clear that the spread can really happen in closed, confined spaces via micro-droplets and people talking in enclosed spaces,” she said.

And that information is becoming important as state officials talk with business owners about their plans, including examining their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. 

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“We’re talking a lot more about things like air circulations in businesses. Again, windows open, (and assessing) HVAC systems, to be able to make sure that they aren’t having that disease circulate within an office building or business,” she said.

Zink said the protective measures businesses take now can keep them open even if an employee or customer contracts the disease, because they can stop it from spreading further. 

A Department of Health and Social Services website has information to assist businesses. 

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at