Health screening stations a precautionary measure at Anchorage hospital

Alaska Regional patients walk into the hospital after going through a health screening station. (KTUU)
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - So far it’s good news -- Alaska health officials say coronavirus still has not reached the state.

As of Friday the Department of Health and Social Services has tested 14 people in Alaska: twelve came back negative for coronavirus, and two tests are still pending.

Meanwhile, Alaska Regional Hospital is taking precautionary measures, setting up health screening stations at every entrance. The hospital's chief medical officer Dr. Keri Gardner says it’s the first time she's seen these screenings in her tenure at the hospital.

"When was the last time you guys had to use this procedure?" Channel 2 asked.

"It's been so many years that,” Gardner paused, “… not in the memory of anyone that's been here."

Gardner says a lot of people are coming in for testing, concerned they may have the virus. She's encouraging people who are sick to stay home rather than come in for a diagnosis.

"That makes it difficult for people who are already sick in the hospital,” Gardner said. “If a visitor comes in and they're sick too, it can add a new illness to what they already have."

Gardner says sick patients can call in for an appointment -- in that case Alaska Regional will know to take precautions when you visit the hospital.

DHSS is setting up a call line which Gardner says will be up and running by Monday. Health officials are asking those who are sick to call it. Dial 2-1-1 to talk to a health provider about your symptoms. Gardner says they’ll connect you to resources.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink says not everyone who is sick needs to be tested.

"My message for today is making sure people stay calm and continue to work together,” Zink said. “It can be really overwhelming to have all this news and media about the novel coronavirus, not know where to go, and want to get tested.”

“It's important to remember that the test is not a treatment, nor is it a cure,” Zink continued. “It's a way for us as public health officials to figure out who's at risk, and make sure that we can protect as many people as possible."

Dr. Zink has said it's likely only a matter of time before the virus surfaces in Alaska. When or if that happens, she says Alaskans should be prepared for changes to their daily routines.

To keep up to speed you can click here to sign up for DHSS emergency text and email notifications.

DHSS posts coronavirus-related information, including status of tests across the state, every day by 12:30 p.m. Click here for that information.

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