Forewarned is Forearmed: The Definitive Guide to COVID-19 for Alaska

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska As of Monday, March 9, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alaska, but health officials are encouraging Alaskans to be prepared.

Alaska now has 500 test kits from the CDC that have been tested and certified according to Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer.

“We are acting as if we had cases now,” Zink said Monday at a press conference. “Hospitals are set up to act as if they had cases, we’re asking people to have good hand-washing and be prepared in case we have cases. We’re trying to stay ahead of this and we’re acting in that way."

Alaska does not welcome its first cruise ship until April, which Gov. Dunleavy said leaves time for cruise ship companies, health officials and local communities to work on mitigation.

As of Monday evening, there have been 32 individuals tested for coronavirus with no positive results, with 9 tests pending according to the DHSS Covid-19 website.

The Anchorage Health Department announced that Alaska 2-1-1 is available to those with questions about the 2019 novel coronavirus. Dial 2-1-1 or 800-478-2221 in areas where the regular 2-1-1 cannot be accessed.

Prevention:

The CDC recommends preventative actions that should be taken every day to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.

CDC does not recommend that people who are well wearing a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

“This is a time for people to think about social distancing, staying more than six feet away,” Zink said. “Not working with anyone or being away from anyone else who may be sick.”

Preparation:

Health officials said it is smart to have enough supplies to last for two weeks on hand, but there is not a need to stockpile.

Experts recommend having food you would normally store in your pantry and frozen foods.

Zink said families should have enough medicine to last for at least two weeks.

Symptoms:

The CDC said the following symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure:

Fever

Cough

Shortness of breath

How the virus spreads:

COVID-19 is believed to spread mainly from person-to-person in close contact with one another, according to the CDC website. The CDC considers that close contact to be within about six feet. The virus is able to spread through respiratory droplets when a sick person coughs or sneezes.

Respiratory droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people in close contact or can be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it may be possible the virus can be spread after touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching mouth, nose or eyes. However, it is believed that this is not the main way the virus spreads.

Severity:

The World Health Organization reported that 80 percent of surveyed cases are considered to be mild to moderate disease. About 13.8 percent of cases have severe disease and 6.1 percent is critical.

Who is affected:

According to the report by the World Health Organization, those at the highest risk are over 60 years old and those with underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disease.

There are no deaths reported from children, the governor said in a press conference Monday.

“Children are at really low risk. The mortality rate for children is lower than the flu,” Zink said. “So we think our children are fairly well protected at this point.”

When should you get checked:

According to the CDC, you should call your healthcare provider immediately if you believe you have been exposed to the virus or develop symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing or difficulty breathing.

You should call your healthcare provider ahead of time before your visit to the office can take steps to keep other people from getting exposed or infected.

Alaskan health leaders have made announcements about how going to the hospital should not be your first reaction to getting sick right now.

Chief Medical Officer at Providence, Dr. Michael Bernstein said this puts the person going to the hospital at risk of spreading or picking up germs from the patients already there.

On top of that, Dr. Bernstein said large call volume and people walking in to get checked for COVID-19 creates an obstacle for health care providers to treat current patients.

Numerous call lines and resources have been set up to help people know if they should go to the hospital if they develop symptoms that resemble those of COVID-19.

On March 9, DHSS launched a 211 line that has callers on standby to answer questions and concerns. This number also serves to point people in the direction of other resources.

Those who don't have 211 services in their area can call 800-478-2221 as an alternative.

There is also a 24-hour Nurse Advice Line that is free to use. That number is 907-212-6183.

On the Providence website, a questionnaire has been added to the information available there.

Here, people afraid they've contracted the disease can answer questions about their travel history and symptoms to determine if they should go see a doctor.

Even then people using the service can use a virtual chat feature to get a consultation with a health care provider without having to leave home.

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