‘It’s testing Alaska’s resilience’: Health experts worry about further epidemic winter

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Alaskan COVID-19 cases are on the rise as temperatures drop.

Health officials say that while Alaska grew successfully in late July, this time it feels something different. This is partly due to the change in se asons: as temperatures drop, Alaska spends more time indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.

“This fall and winter, I’m worried, will be difficult,” the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. An. “It’s testing Alaska’s resilience.”

This past week, Alaska set a record for the newest coronavirus infection in a single day, and last Friday, the average percentage of tests that came above positive% for the first time. Daily case counts have been in triple digits for more than three weeks, and most Communities across the state now see themselves in the highest alert category, defined as more than 10 cases per 100,000 people.

State statistics show that so far hospital capacity has remained stable, and the state’s per capita mortality rate remains the lowest in the country, with state health officials expressing concern about the rapid rise in winter cases.

It’s a problem that doesn’t go away anytime soon, especially in Alaska. The days are just getting shorter and colder.

“During the summer, when people saw (the cases) going up, there was a conscious effort to get out there and make the distance better,” said Janet Johnston, an epidemiologist at the Anchorage Health Department.

“Even on Labor Day, we didn’t see the spike associated with it that I was worried about. But now as we move on, the days are getting shorter, it will get cooler and more mixing is happening inside. And that’s what I think is the big driver, ”Johnston said.

State health officials say one of the biggest challenges posed by winter is the changing nature of how the virus is spread.

In response, state and local officials last week called the question the success of the “social bubble”, which is small friend-and-family groups that some Alaskanis are sticking to as a way to stay smarter and safely socialize.

Bubbles only work if they stick fairly tightly, Johnston said.

Some children have returned to school and many adults are at work, which is difficult to do.

“When people were actually living at home, it was much easier to bubble during ‘Hunker Down’.” “But we’ve got a lot more activities,” he added, adding that many clusters of anchorages are connected to smaller family and friend groups.

‘We hear a lot of people say,‘ My bubble is safe. ” Zinc said. “But your bubble is connected to another bubble, which is connected to another bubble. And so it just spreads from bubble to bubble. We were thinking. There’s a big fire tube, but I think it’s just that we’re taking that bucket of covid.” And we’re spreading it from one small group to another. “

“I think it’s okay if you can really apply that bubble,” Johnston said. “But I think it’s become harder and harder to do.”

Going into Alaska indoors, another major concern is how to make indoor spaces as safe as possible, and ventilation systems play a role in reducing transmission.

The novel coronavirus is spread primarily through close contact between people inside the home, with new evidence suggesting the virus is capable of spreading more than 6 feet even through airborne transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an updated guide last week.

This risk can be mitigated slightly by ensuring that homes and commercial buildings have some sort of ventilation strategy, said Jack Hebert, founder and former CEO of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks.

“In warmer places, doors and windows are open and there is access to the air outside the house which washes the inside of the house, and you are less likely to pick up a virus bound there.” “In Alaska (winter), we don’t do that.”

Instead, there are many other methods in Alaska that people use to ventilate their homes, Hebert stressed, adding that it is important for people in Alaska to always pay attention to their ventilation systems – Covid-19 or not – for reasons of their health and safety.

But in terms of the ventilation system The ability to filter coronavirus, he said, is questionable, Hebert said.

He said, ‘I don’t want to take away the importance of commercial buildings, buildings fee buildings and homes maintaining those ventilation systems.’ “But we can’t filter viruses like coronavirus from the ventilation system. You can provide more air and healthier air. But the atmosphere inside the house always becomes a center of concern rather than outside. “

Ultimately, he said, having a properly functioning ventilation system should be just one part of the puzzle.

“Indeed, keeping your bubble small, and being careful in public, will make the most difference,” Hebert said.

On October 12, 2020, the view overlooking the south from the top of Mount Flatp in England will feature the Chugach Peaks and part of the Turning Gain Arm. (Mark Lester / ADN)