From Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, MD, FACEP
Our goal with this newsletter is to provide Alaska health care providers with clinically-relevant and concise news from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). If you ’re a provider who hasn’t already subscribed, please sign up to receive this newsletter via this link and share it with other providers.
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
I remain deeply inspired and humbled by all the work that has already occurred within Alaska’s medical community to prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 cases in Alaska.
Alaska is tightly connected to the world through global air and ship traffic. Due to our close proximity to Asia, the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is one of the busiest cargo hubs in the nation. This makes us unique, and because of our vast geography and small population, Alaska requires a high degree of self-sufficiency when it comes to public health emergencies. We know and train for this.
Just a few months ago, we exercised our public health emergency response system within DHSS to assist patients and providers following an enforcement action against two opioid prescribers in Alaska. Before that, we experienced a challenging 2019 wildfire season and the 2018 Southcentral Alaska earthquake. Going back a few more years, Alaska’s medical community prepared for the threats of 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the 2009-H1N1 influenza pandemic, and the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic. Each time we practice and prepare, we get better.
I want to make sure you have the latest information at your fingertips. If you have not done so already, sign up for Alaska’s PHAN’s (Public Heath Alert Networks). These concise alerts are intended for health care providers (sign up here). The Section of Epidemiology sent out three PHANs based on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health Alert Networks on COVID-19 on Jan. 8, Jan. 17 and Feb. 1
DHSS has also created a COVID-19 website: coronavirus.alaska.gov. Two key things you will find there are Information for Alaska Healthcare Providers and a a flowchart to identify and assess 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
For the past several Thursdays, the Section of Epidemiology has been hosting a webinar for health care providers. This is a chance for your team to ask questions and get updated information. If you’d like to get announcements about the next webinar and other announcements email InfDisease@alaska.gov.
The CDCs website has been changing daily on this topic and I would highly encourage all health professionals to take a look at it. It’s helpful to check the “What’s New” section at the bottom of the main webpage.
JAMA has also a webpage devoted to COVID-19 that includes recent research articles plus interviews with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
If you like playing with numbers, a favorite website of mine has been the Johns Hopkins Data dashboard with data on COVID-19 global cases. It’s worth bookmarking.
We are in very close communication with the CDC and are constantly updating our material, so call in to one of our health care provider webinars, send us a message and let us know what you want to hear more of and how else we can support you. We appreciate your help in combating misinformation, stigma and fear while we also take the threat of this novel virus seriously.
Repatriation Flight from Wuhan, China
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, in cooperation with federal, Tribal, state and local partners, successfully assisted with the first repatriation flight from Wuhan, China. This plane landed to refuel in Anchorage on the evening of Jan. 28 and continued on with all passengers early in the morning on Jan. 29. It is the only repatriation flight from Wuhan, China to pass through Alaska and at this time, we do not know of any other flights from Wuhan that might land or pass through Alaska.
On Tuesday, these passengers completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine in California and were released to return to their homes. This means there is no longer any risk to the small number of Alaskans who assisted with that repatriation mission, or to any Alaskans, from that mission. While on the ground in Anchorage, health personnel from Alaska further screened these passengers and deemed them all to be healthy to travel on to their destination in California, where they then underwent quarantine. Careful precautions and safeguards were enacted to protect the health of those workers, and the health of all Alaskans.
I cannot thank our partners enough. Our health capabilities were carefully considered by all involved and it was decided that could successfully fulfill this mission, and we did. DHSS owes many thanks to a multitude of federal, state, Tribal and local partners and especially to the Anchorage Health Department, Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Native Medical Center, and Alaska Regional Hospital for their close coordination and preparation involving a wide range of scenarios, including the possibility of a patient in need of medical care. This was an inspiring mission on many fronts and we were honored to be able to assist these fellow Americans.
Healthy Alaskans 2030 and State of Alaska’s Health
DHSS and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium were excited last month to kick off Healthy Alaskans 2030 with the announcement of Alaska's new health goals for the next 10 years at the Alaska Health Summit, hosted by the Alaska Public Health Association. Now comes the exciting part – engaging communities.
I was honored to welcome the morning session with a few brief remarks, along with some recorded remarks from DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum. Thanks to KTVA for their coverage of the plan. Click on the following to view the story, the website, and the press release.
The 31st Legislature convened on Jan. 21, 2020. For more information and to watch committee meetings and hearings, visit the Alaska Legislature’s website or Gavel Alaska.
On Feb. 12 and 13, I gave a presentation about COVID-19 and our response and preparedness to Health and Social Services committees in both the Senate and the House. Here is the link to view the Feb. 12 presentation and here is the link to view the Feb. 13 presentation.
For more information on the governor’s budget, please visit the Office of Management and Budget webpage.
Sometime in March, yet to be scheduled, I will giving another presentation to the Alaska Legislature on the state of Alaska’s health.
CMO Office Hours
Thank you to Alaska Regional Hospital for hosting my most recent office hours. Providers had great questions, many of which I tried to address in this newsletter. I am hoping to hold more office hours at health care facilities around Alaska so I can hear concerns directly from the health care community. If you are interested in having me come and hold one of these meetings at your health care facility, please coordinate scheduling with Program Coordinator Doniel Wolfe, firstname.lastname@example.org, 907-334-2474.
Your feedback is valuable
This newsletter is a work in progress and we will continue to work with the format to make it as helpful as possible. Please feel free to contact me, Anne.Zink@alaska.gov, or Doniel.Wolfe@alaska.gov, 907-334-2474, with any feedback, comments, or questions you may have.
Thank you for all you do!
Anne Zink, MD, FACEP | Chief Medical Officer
Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
3601 C Street, Suite 756 | Anchorage, AK 99503