A sign Anchorage mandates are working, state forecasts a decline in new coronavirus infections

A chart shows the number of COVID-19 infections among Municipality of Anchorage residents. The cases spiked in late July and have generally declined in August.
A screenshot of a chart from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services that shows the number of COVID-19 infections among Municipality of Anchorage residents since March. State health officials say case counts are generally trending downward.

State health officials say they’re predicting a decline in coronavirus infections in Alaska after a surge of cases last month.

In a call with reporters Thursday, State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said that forecast is driven by a drop in COVID-19 outbreaks and fewer new infections in the state’s largest city.

“The case counts are really on the decline or have been on the decline in Anchorage,” McLaughlin said. “And so this is a real positive sign that things are improving right now in Anchorage, and may well be an indication that the mandates that are in place in Anchorage are working. So that’s really encouraging.”

The Municipality of Anchorage put new capacity restrictions in place at businesses in late July, and then cracked down even further earlier this month. It closed indoor dining at restaurants and bars, and further limited the size of gatherings.

The state reported Wednesday that COVID-19 cases in Alaska are now predicted to decline by half every 38 days. That’s a sharp reversal from last week’s prediction that cases would double every three weeks. 

But Alaska chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink cautioned that the number of COVID-19 cases will continue to rise and fall. She said the future of the virus in the state will depend on how well Alaskans continue to follow preventative measures like wearing face masks and social distancing.

You can see that our fate with COVID is not fixed,” she said on Thursday’s call. “Our fate with COVID is directed by what we’re all doing as individuals collectively, together to minimize the spread of COVID.”

The state reported 95 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, with 30 of them tied to the Municipality of Anchorage. The number of people hospitalized with the virus in Alaska also hit a new high at 39.

Meanwhile, the state is tracking at least two significant outbreaks. At the Anchorage Pioneer Home, 10 residents and two employees have tested positive for the virus. Also, there are 19 known cases among workers at a Southeast Alaska mine. 

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Tegan Hanlon is the digital managing editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447. Read more about Tegan here.

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