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COVID-19 Health Alerts

Health alerts are advisories issued by Department of Health and Social Services leadership.
Health alerts should be followed.

Issued: April 3, 2020

By: Commissioner Adam Crum, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Dr. Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer, State of Alaska

Health Alert 010 – Recommendations Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings

Scientific evidence available to date indicates that asymptomatic and presymptomatic shedding of the virus that causes COVID-19 is occurring.  This means that people who have no symptoms whatsoever may be infected with the virus and capable of transmitting the virus to others when interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing.  This heightens the need for community-wide implementation of control measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among people who are not experiencing symptoms of illness. 

The primary ways to do this are through social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. Another tool that may help to minimize transmission while people are around others outside of their household is the use of face coverings. Because we are experiencing a nationwide shortage of medical supplies, including facemasks, we recommend that Alaskans make their own face coverings and wear them in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) — especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.  This recommendation aligns with current national guidance: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html

The following measures are highly recommended for all Alaskans:

  • Wear a cloth face covering in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).
  • Make sure the face covering covers both the nose and mouth.
  • Do not remove the face covering until you return home.
  • When removing the face covering, avoid touching the front of the face covering (because it may be contaminated). Remove it by grasping the ear loops, ties, or bands and immediately discard or place in a designated container for laundering. 
  • Wash your hands immediately after removing the face covering and before touching anything else.
  • Wash face coverings in hot, soapy water between uses.
  • Do not wear N-95 or surgical masks; these are needed by health care workers and first responders.
  • Do not rely on face coverings as the primary way to prevent COVID-19 transmission, and be careful to avoid developing a false sense of security through the use of face coverings. Continue to follow social distancing measures, including maintaining at least six feet between yourself and others, staying at home, avoiding touching your face, and washing your hands frequently.

What is a cloth face covering? A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand, or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.

How do I make a homemade face coverings? Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost. There are a number of instructional websites and videos that people can refer to for making face coverings; two such videos are available at https://youtu.be/VgHrnS6n4iA and https://youtu.be/1r2C1zGUHbU

How well do cloth face coverings work to prevent spread of COVID-19? There is limited evidence available on how well cloth face coverings help reduce COVID-19 transmission. Their primary role is to reduce the release of respiratory droplets into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including people who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.

How should I care for a cloth face covering? Wash your cloth face covering frequently, ideally after each use, or at least daily. Have a bag or bin to keep cloth face coverings in until they can be laundered with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle. If you must re-wear your cloth face covering before washing, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. Discard cloth face coverings that:

  • No longer cover the nose and mouth
  • Have stretched out or damaged ties or straps
  • Cannot stay on the face
  • Have holes or tears in the fabric

This is not a mandate.
State of Alaska COVID-10 Health Alert #010

Issued March 13, 2020

By: Dr. Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer, State of Alaska

DHSS strongly advises that all Alaskans read and comply with the following CDC guidance for workplaces, schools, homes, and commercial establishments:

Practice good hygiene:

  • Stop handshaking – use other noncontact methods of greeting.
  • Clean hands at the door and schedule regular hand washing reminders by email.
  • Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their faces and cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, desks, and handrails regularly.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows when able.

Be careful with meetings and events:

  • Use videoconferencing for meetings when possible.
  • When videoconferencing not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces.
  • Consider adjusting or postponing large meetings or gatherings.

Special travel considerations:

  • Assess the risks of travel including the location and rapidly changing events.
  • At risk individuals and communities with limited health care infrastructure or high-risk populations should considering limiting all non-essential travel.

Handle food carefully:

  • Limit food sharing.
  • Strengthen health screening for staff working with food and their close contacts.
  • Ensure staff working with food and their close contacts practice strict hygiene.

Special consideration for businesses:

  • Use booking and scheduling to stagger customer flow.
  • Use online transactions where possible.
  • Consider limiting attendance at larger gatherings.
  • Promote tap and pay to limit handling of cash.

For transportation businesses, taxis, and ride shares:

  • Keep windows open when possible.
  • Increase ventilation.
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces.
  • Encourage social distancing during rides.

If you don’t feel well:

  • Stay at home if you are feeling sick.
  • Do not go to work, out in public or around others if you have a fever and for 72 hours after your last fever.
  • Consider staying at home if you have a sick family member in your home.

Households with sick family members are recommended to:

  • Give sick members their own room if possible, and keep the door closed.
  • Have only one family member care for them.
  • Consider providing additional protections or more intensive care for household members over 65 years old or with underlying conditions.

Households with vulnerable seniors or those with significant underlying conditions:

Significant underlying conditions include heart, lung, kidney disease; diabetes; and conditions that suppress the immune system.

  • Have the healthy people in the household conduct themselves as if they were a significant risk to the person with underlying conditions. For example, wash hands frequently before interacting with the person, such as by feeding or caring for the person.
  • If possible, provide a protected space for vulnerable household members.
  • Ensure all utensils and surfaces are cleaned regularly.

 

These recommendations are based on the CDC’s guidance, which can be found here: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html

This is not a mandate. 

Download Printable PDF's of Health Alerts

Health alerts 001, 002, 003, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, and 011 have expired, been rescinded, or superceded.