Homer resident returning from Outside tests positive for Coronavirus; Isolated in Anchorage

Mar 25, 2020

A visualization of the coronavirus.
Credit PBS

A notice Wednesday from the City of Homer announced the first case of Covid-19 associated with the community -- but the designation comes with a rather large asterisk: The case was attributed to Homer because while the person was from Homer, they were returning from the Lower 48 and was diagnosed upon arriving in Anchorage.
    Borough Emergency Manager Dan Nelson explains.
    “But I want to really make clear that CDC guidelines with how they attribute cases is based on where people are from. This case is listed in Homer. However, the person traveled to Anchorage was tested in Anchorage and did not come down to the Kenai Peninsula. They have been isolated in the Anchorage area,” he said. “So, I want to make that clear to folks that we do, if you look on our statistics, we do officially have a case in Homer. However, that person was not actually down in the Kenai Peninsula.”
    Another case on the Kenai Peninsula was reported among the staff in the borough’s solid waste department this week. Borough Information Officer Brenda Ahlberg explained that the person’s department was announced because solid waste is an essential department.
    “That's very important to let folks know that we are not going to be announcing cases or possible exposures throughout our bureau facilities. We want to respect our employees’ privacy. But there will come times such as this with critical services that we want to reassure the public that we are doing our due diligence and informing them as appropriate,” she said. “So but on the flip side, I want to reassure our employees that we are not going to be releasing this on a regular basis by any means and don't want to set that expectation.”
    Ahlberg and Nelson also responded to a question during their Facebook Live coronavirus update Wednesday night about whether the Sterling and Seward Highways could be closed to protect Peninsula citizens.
    “One of the questions that has come up, ‘Is there consideration for potentially shutting down the Seward/Sterling highways to local traffic returning only and only opening to essential service vehicles? Is that being considered?’” Ahlberg asked.
    “So right now, I have not been involved in any discussions like that. But I do want to address that, that highway so those Seward and Sterling highways are state highways, and by state law, that power would rest with the Department of Transportation, essentially the governor. So those powers rest with the state to enforce any type of checkpoint or other things that would involve local traffic,” Nelson said. “So, you know, at this point, if there isn't a mandate coming from the governor, I don't expect to see that happen. We'll certainly, certainly get that message out, I think, if that changes but I don't believe so right now.”
    Again, a Homer resident, returning to Alaska from Outside, tested positive upon arrival in Anchorage, and is being kept there until cleared by health officials. Their identity has not been released.