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Alaska: How Each Coronavirus Case Is Being Tracked By Epidemiologists In Alaska


David Mudd

Alaska has its battle to fight in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The US is the worst-hit country in terms of the pandemic by far. Even remote states like Alaska haven’t slipped the virus’ grasp.

Alaska Has Over 300 Positive Cases

So far, as per the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, Alaska has seen 309 positive confirmed cases of COVID-19. While still worth being cautious about, these numbers are well below projections of what they could’ve been.

Why is this the case, though? The answer is quite simple – rigorous contact tracing. In speaking to Anchorage Daily News, many of Alaska’s nurses spoke about the steps they’ve taken to properly identify potential positive cases of the virus.


The Curve Has Stayed Flat In Alaska

Alaska’s state epidemiologist, Joe McLaughlin, told the outlet that every single one of their positive cases has gone through a contact tracing process. Tim Struna, head of the Division of Public Health’s statewide public nursing section, also spoke of the usefulness of contact tracing. “It is part of what’s keeping the curve down in Alaska,” he said.

Alaska’s curve has largely stayed flat. Struna pointed out that the Alaskan peoples’ discipline is one of the key factors as to why. “I think that can be attributed to these two strategies: People in Alaska doing the best they can to social distance. And the contact tracing.”

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How Alaska’s Nurses Conduct Contact Tracing

So, how does this contact tracing process work? It’s quite straightforward. You get on the phone with a suspected positive case, and you ask them to retrace their steps over the previous fourteen days.

This is a difficult process, but it works. Joe McLaughlin, the state’s epidemiologist, described it thusly: “We ask them to try to recall each and every person they came into contact with during that infectious window, and the nature of the contact, and the duration of the contact.”

There are some tricks to helping jog the memories of the people they’re talking to. Bethany Zimpelman, one of the nurses involved in the contact tracing spoke about it. “We have people re-track their bank statements, their credit cards. Sometimes moms, especially, will be taking pictures — they have like a little journal on their phone,” she said.


This process of contact tracing is slowly helping them map out the movement of this virus across the state. If they continue this process as rigorously as they have been, Alaska might reopen sooner than expected.