By Associated Press - Friday, October 16, 2020

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A coronavirus outbreak at Fairbanks Pioneer Home for seniors increased to 53 cases after 20 residents and five staff members tested positive over a week.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said no deaths have occurred, and one resident is hospitalized, The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.

“An isolation unit has been set up at the home so all positive residents can be cared for in one area by staff who have recovered and were cleared to return to work,” the health department said.

The state operates six Pioneer Homes serving nearly 500 Alaska residents ages 60 and older in Anchorage, Palmer, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Fairbanks.

Most of the new cases in the Fairbanks home were identified over the weekend, while the outbreak appeared to be contained to two areas within the home, emails sent to families said.



An Oct. 11 message from the Fairbanks home said residents were asked to remain in their rooms to decrease hall traffic and that common areas have been closed.

“When you speak to your loved ones here, it would be helpful to reiterate the need to stay in their rooms,” the email said. “The staff are working hard to redirect people back to their rooms for their safety.”

Staff members have been tested twice per week since Sept. 22, when the home determined a staff member contracted the virus, state health officials said last week.

Residents are now tested twice weekly. They were previously tested after showing symptoms of the virus.

“Aggressive testing of residents and staff will continue,” the health department said Tuesday.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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