Alaska Coronavirus Questions & Answers: How Do People Here Get COVID-19? And what’s the deal with the test numbers?

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One can get the impression that the COVID-19 pandemic has been going on forever. But the disease caused by the new coronavirus is still relatively new. Questions abound and information from public officials is sometimes contradictory or confusing.

As the weeks and months go by, we want to know what questions you might have about COVID-19 and we want to help you answer them.

Do you have a personal question? Fill out the form at the bottom of this article.

The Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, which reports all state COVID-19 data, recently changed the way it reports test data.

Previously, the ministry reported all of the test results it received every day that day. Now instead of showing results based on the day the service received them, it displays results based on the day the tests were performed.

It shows better when people are tested and “mitigates daily variability caused by delays in completing tests,” such as fewer tests done on weekends or labs that might have delays, according to the department.

Since COVID-19 tests can take a few days to return results, it appears there has been less testing done recently. But ministry officials say it’s because they just don’t have the most recent test results yet.

The state’s health department sends out a summary of the previous week’s COVID-19 data every Wednesday, which helps paint a more specific picture of the pandemic in the 49th state.

In their most recent summary, Alaskan health officials wrote that in March many of the state’s cases were travel-related. In April and May, fewer Alaskans traveled, but as more Alaskans started traveling since June, more cases are again linked to travel.

In the most recent week, 61% of Alaskan cases were linked to secondary or community transmission. And the largest increase in cases has been seen in people in their 20s and 30s.

The spread of COVID-19 among people at social gatherings, community events, churches and bars – in addition to the spread of the virus within families – has “significantly contributed” to the increase in number of cases in Alaska, according to a previous report.

Anchorage continues to see cases across the city, Anchorage Department of Health doctor Dr Bruce Chandler said in a briefing Aug. 21. residency, as well as cases involving employees of several local businesses.

“I’m sure there are others that haven’t caught our attention,” Chandler said.

There are thousands of people still at high risk of contracting the virus in Anchorage. Plus, even though people don’t have any symptoms, they can be “very contagious” to others nearby, he said.

Seven people from Anchorage have died from COVID-19 in the past month, Chandler said on Aug.21. – a number which has since increased.

“I think some of these people would be alive and well if we had done a better job protecting them from the virus,” Chandler said.

Incoming passengers Alex Koehler and Melissa Engelhardt listen to instructions from Marvell Robinson at the COVID-19 test site at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on July 17, 2020 (Emily Mesner / ADN)

For the background: Alaska has changed its rules for inbound travelers. As of August 11, non-residents arriving in the state must take a COVID-19 test before leaving or pay $ 250 for an airport test.

So far, the state has not had to deal with a person refusing to be tested at the airport after arriving without proof of a test, according to Coleman Cutchins, clinical pharmacist and test coordinator with the state.

But if people refuse, airport screening officers will ask for their contact details so the state can work out a plan, he said on an Aug. 20 call with reporters. If a person really can’t afford a test, the state could find a way for the person to get tested for free and quarantine them until they get their results, he said. .

False positive test results – showing someone has the disease when they don’t – are not common in coronavirus tests. Testing for the virus is “very specific,” according to the state’s health department, meaning it “hardly ever gives a false positive.”

However, false negatives, which show that someone does not have the virus when they do, can occur. This can happen if it is too early in a person’s illness to detect COVID-19.

Jesse Guyer, left, and Callie Palmer, right, hike Little O’Malley Peak in Chugach State Park on August 22, 2020 (Emily Mesner / DNA)

State epidemiologist Dr Joe McLaughlin uses the Anchorage trail system, he said during a recent public video call. Sailing outdoors comes down to personal choice, he said.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, anyone who has been within 6 feet of them for more than fifteen minutes is considered close contact, which means walking past someone on the trail doesn’t match. not in this category.

“Now, certainly, if the person is breathing hard and has to cough directly on you, like giving you a direct facial photo of a cough, you could be exposed to COVID if they are infected,” McLaughlin said.

When he’s hiking, McLaughlin said, he’ll go off the trail, turn his head, or even hold his breath if he starts getting too close to someone.

But, if someone is at a higher risk of COVID-19, he said he should take more precautions.

Likewise, the state’s chief medical officer, Dr Anne Zink, said her children use the “grumpy dog ​​theory,” which means staying away from people like you would keep a grumpy dog ​​away from people. along the trails. They “often dive into the woods and stray 6 feet from the trail,” Zink said.

She also keeps a mask for crowded trails and wears one if she’s going to pick blueberries on a trail where others might appear.

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