Alaska governor contracts COVID-19, rests at home with mild symptoms

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters - Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy was diagnosed with COVID-19 and is resting at home with mild symptoms, his office said on Wednesday.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

Dunleavy, a Republican, has been isolating at his home in Wasilla, about 44 miles north of Anchorage, since he was notified on Sunday that he had been in contact the previous day with an infected individual.

An initial COVID-19 test on Sunday was negative, but Dunleavy remained at home in accordance with health guidelines, his office said in a statement. He had been feeling well until Tuesday night, and a second test on Wednesday morning came back positive.

Dunleavy is being monitored by his personal physician and by Alaska’s chief medical officer, Anne Zink, the statement said.

“He’s just working from home, like he was once he started the self-quarantine on Sunday,” spokesman Jeff Turner said.

Alaska’s daily COVID-19 case numbers have declined in recent weeks, as they have for the country as a whole. But this week the 49th state detected its first case of the more highly infectious coronavirus variant that first emerged in Brazil.

The Brazilian form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, called P.1, was confirmed in an Anchorage patient who became sick earlier this month, state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said Wednesday. That makes Alaska the fifth U.S. state to detect the Brazil variant, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Anchorage patient had not recently traveled outside of Alaska but reported eating in a restaurant with other unmasked diners about four days before falling ill, McLaughlin said by email. “It is possible that this may have been where the patient was exposed,” he said.

One other person in contact with the newly identified P.1 patient also tested positive, but the particular strain of that infection was not known, McLaughlin said.

Dunleavy is the latest of numerous U.S. political leaders to contract COVID. Among them were former President Donald Trump, the governors of Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, and well over a dozen members of Congress, including Alaska Representative Don Young, who had downplayed the disease as the “beer virus.”

Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska; Editing by Steve Gorman and Sam Holmes