Alaska raises preparedness level around new coronavirus

Alaska's chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, speaks to legislators during a briefing on the state's preparations for the new coronavirus on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. Alaska health Commissioner Adam Crum and Zink, briefed state legislators Wednesday on preparations. Zink urged calm and kindness and encouraged people to get flu shots, to help keep the state's limited capacity health care system from being overwhelmed. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
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JUNEAU, Alaska Alaska raised its level of preparedness Wednesday as cases of the new coronavirus have emerged on the West Coast, including in Washington.

State health Commissioner Adam Crum told reporters the new level of heightened awareness involves analyzing where officials are in their plans and making “sure we’re ready for go time.”

Crum and the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, briefed legislators Wednesday on preparations. Zink urged calm and kindness and encouraged people to get flu shots, to help keep the state’s limited capacity health care system from being overwhelmed.

Crum said the Dunleavy administration is working on ways to help people get early refills on prescription medications in case those are needed as part of individual preparations.

Zink said tests for COVID-19 in Alaska currently are being prioritized for people considered at higher risk. As of the Wednesday briefing, there had been no confirmed cases of the virus in Alaska.

She said she has spoken with colleagues in Washington state to learn from their experiences.

The Alaska health department has said steps one can take to help prevent contracting the flu or a cold also can help prevent getting COVID-19, including washing hands often, avoiding people who are sick, avoiding touching one’s face with unwashed hands and staying home when sick.