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UAA researchers and facilities play key role in fight against COVID-19

by Joe Selmont  |   

Municipality of Anchorage Health Department (AHD), Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) hold a mass COVID-19 Point of Dispensing (POD) vaccination clinic in the municipality for Alaskans 65 and older, health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and EMS who meet certain criteria and are eligible for the vaccine (Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1) at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo courtesy Municipality of Anchorage)
Municipality of Anchorage Health Department, Emergency Operations Center and the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services hold a mass COVID-19 Point of Dispensing vaccination clinic for people who meet certain criteria and are eligible for the vaccine (Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1) at UAA's Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo courtesy Municipality of Anchorage)

In December and January, UAA’s Alaska Airlines Center (AAC) became a focal point for two critical COVID-19 mitigation efforts. In the same time frame, several UAA faculty, staff and students contributed to a report on the effects of Anchorage’s COVID-19 emergency orders.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) announced on Dec. 9 that the AAC had been established as the state-run infusion center for two new monoclonal antibody therapies that can reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections. Monoclonal antibodies have been used primarily to combat cancer cells by imitating or augmenting the body’s natural immune response. The two new therapies by pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly and Regenernon had recently received emergency use authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration.

Municipality of Anchorage Health Department (AHD), Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) hold a mass COVID-19 Point of Dispensing (POD) vaccination clinic in the municipality for Alaskans 65 and older, health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and EMS who meet certain criteria and are eligible for the vaccine (Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1) at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo courtesy Municipality of Anchorage)
Municipality of Anchorage Health Department, Emergency Operations Center and the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services hold a mass COVID-19 Point of Dispensing vaccination clinic for people who meet certain criteria and are eligible for the vaccine (Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1) at UAA's Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo courtesy Municipality of Anchorage)

The Anchorage Health Department announced that the AAC would also serve as the Point of Dispensing, or POD, for the city’s initial batch of COVID-19 vaccines designated for health care workers and individuals over the age of 65. Between Jan. 9 and 12, the city administered up to 1,800 vaccinations on the UAA campus. In addition to the AAC, several health care providers in the Anchorage area are COVID-19 vaccine providers. As more vaccines become available, the AAC may once again operate as a POD. More information about Alaska’s COVID-19 vaccine status is available on the DHSS website.

More recently, a research team of UAA faculty, staff and students evaluated the effectiveness of Anchorage’s emergency orders that aimed to curb the transmission of COVID-19 last summer. The emergency orders instituted a mask mandate in June (EO 13), limited capacities in public venues such as bars, restaurants and gyms in July (EO 14), and eventually closed those same public venues in August, or, in the case of restaurants, limited their operations to takeout (EO 15).

Municipality of Anchorage Health Department (AHD), Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) hold a mass COVID-19 Point of Dispensing (POD) vaccination clinic in the municipality for Alaskans 65 and older, health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and EMS who meet certain criteria and are eligible for the vaccine (Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1) at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo courtesy Municipality of Anchorage)
Municipality of Anchorage Health Department, Emergency Operations Center and the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services hold a mass COVID-19 Point of Dispensing vaccination clinic for people who meet certain criteria and are eligible for the vaccine (Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1) at UAA's Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo courtesy Municipality of Anchorage)

The research team found the mask mandate led to an 18.6% drop in the COVID-19 transmission rate, and the orders that first limited and then closed public venues were even more effective (32% decrease), which ultimately resulted in a sustained decline in the number of active cases. The UAA team included Dr. Tom Hennessy, Lisa Bulkow, Dr. Jennifer Meyer, Dr. Gabriel Garcia and Master of Public Health student Laura Grage, in addition to Dr. Eric Mooring from the Alaska Section of Epidemiology.

Whether through our facilities, expertise or other means, UAA remains committed to the fight against COVID-19.

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