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Alaska’s Top Doctor Lays Out Four Ways To Reduce COVID-19 Exposure

Dr. Anne Zink, chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, briefed reporters on the coronavirus at a press conference with Gov. Mike Dunleavy on March 10, 2020.
Liz Ruskin
Alaska Public Media

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said that Alaskans can slow the spread of COVID-19 by minimizing contact with microdroplets from others in the air.

During a news conference with Gov. Mike Dunleavy on July 7, Zink said that one of those risks is enclosed spaces. 

“So the more you can keep those windows open with the light out, and the more you can be outside, the better off we’re all going to be,” she said.

The other risks include spending more time near others, being in dense crowds, and forcefully exhaling air through sneezing, coughing, yelling, and singing. The risks are becoming clearer as scientists spend more time studying how the coronavirus spreads. Zink said that face coverings are now seen as more important in stopping the disease’s spread than they were early on. 

“I think there was so much focus initially, kind of, on touching surfaces, and the data has just become more and more clear that the spread can really happen in closed, confined spaces via microdroplets and people talking in enclosed spaces,” she said.

That information is becoming important as state officials talk with business owners about their plans, including examining their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. 

“We’re talking a lot more about things like air circulations in businesses. Again, windows open, (and assessing) HVAC systems to be able to make sure that they aren’t having that disease circulate within an office building or business,” she said.

Zink said that the protective measures businesses take now can keep them open even if an employee or customer contracts the disease, because they can stop it from spreading further. 

An Alaska Department of Health and Social Services website has information to assist businesses.