- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2020

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - State officials extended a closure of schools and restrictions on travel and public activities meant to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, as Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Thursday the state plans to lay out some “re-entry ideas to get society and businesses up and running again.”

Dunleavy said the state has been planning for that eventuality and next week officials would discuss ideas “to give Alaskans hope, and it’s going to be genuine hope, that we can get things going again.” The effort will be led by the state’s medical team, he said.

On Thursday, the state extended from May 1 to the end of the academic term a closure of K-12 schools to students. Classes will continue to be delivered remotely, the mandate states.

The state extended to April 21 a hunker-down order and restrictions on in-state travel.

Dunleavy said residents wanting to drive to an outdoor recreation area outside their communities can do so but still must stay at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) from others.

“What we don’t want to see happen, for example, is somebody try and get on a plane and then fly into a community, a remote community, and potentially bring the virus into a community,” he said.

As of Thursday, the state had reported 235 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The state health department says there have been seven COVID-19-related deaths of Alaskans, including two people who were out of state at the time of their deaths.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said the state has broadened further its testing criteria. It includes asking providers to consider testing if a person has had new onset of coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or if they have new onset of two or more other conditions, such as chills, diminished sense of smell or taste, runny nose or muscle or joint aches.

Work in the state to help produce supplies has helped with a tight supply chain for testing-related materials, she said.

Testing is important to helping understand the disease and the effectiveness of social distancing strategies, she said.

“And when we’re thinking about, how do we open things back up, testing is a key component of that,” and testing broadly around Alaska is important, Zink said.

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