City is ‘cautiously optimistic’ it has a handle on COVID-19 outbreak at Anchorage shelter

Words on a building red building that say "Brother Francis Shelter. 1021 E. 3rd Ave."
Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage, Alaska (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The number of known COVID-19 infections linked to the Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage grew to 79 by Monday, according to city officials. 

Municipal Manager Bill Falsey said the city is hopeful that the outbreak at the downtown shelter is under control.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we do have a handle on it and that the numbers are not going to grow rapidly,” Falsey said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.

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Falsey said the city has received results from more than 750 COVID-19 tests from local shelters. 

So far, he said, the results don’t indicate widespread infection outside of Brother Francis, including at the Sullivan Arena — the city’s mass shelter that can house up to about 350 people.

“We’re not in a place now where we think there is going to be a similar-sized outbreak at any other facility,” Falsey said. “We’re hopeful that we have identified all of the folks who were positive, and put in an isolation and quarantine regime which is going to keep this at this current level.”

Lisa Sauder, the director of Bean’s Cafe — which is operating the Sullivan Arena shelter — said the latest round of testing results revealed two COVID-19 infections tied to the Midtown facility. 

Falsey said the city will continue to do COVID-19 testing at Anchorage shelters at least once a week until it has two weeks with no positive results. 

Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447.

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Tegan Hanlon is the deputy digital editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at thanlon@alaskapublic.org.