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Alaska reports smallest daily COVID increase in almost two weeks

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Alaska’s COVID-19 count rose by only three new cases in a 24-hour period, though more people are hospitalized around the state with pending test results.

That’s according to new numbers released Monday by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The COVID-19 dashboard data reflects information from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday.

The numbers reported Monday put the state’s total cases at 740: 664 among residents and another 76 among nonresidents, including one new case in a seafood worker in the Aleutians east census area, state officials say.

The number of active cases dropped slightly to 235 from a new high over the weekend of 238.

The new cases were reported in Anchorage, Wasilla and Soldotna.

The report of a single-digit daily increase is the first this low since June 2.

It comes after spiking numbers and double-digit daily rises that started in late May, after Alaska loosened most COVID-related restrictions. Outbreaks have been reported at an Anchorage care facility, a Homer senior center, and among the crew of the state ferry M/V Tustumena.

The state’s largest outbreak -- with 47 positive cases -- is at the Providence Transitional Care Center, an East Anchorage facility that treats people recently released from the hospital for rehabilitation and other treatment.

Two of the 12 Alaskans to die from the virus were residents there. As of Monday, there were four residents hospitalized with positive COVID tests.

Nineteen residents have tested positive, as well as 27 caregivers, according to a Providence spokesman. One caregiver at Providence Extended Care, a facility on the same campus where residents are mostly seniors, has tested positive.

State officials say the outbreaks serve as a reminder that “just because we are open it does not mean the pandemic is over” and urge Alaskans to stay 6 feet or more away from non-family members; wash hands and wipe down surfaces frequently; wear a face covering when in public and close to others; stay home if sick and get tested for COVID-19 if symptomatic; and be “mindful and respectful” to seniors and those with existing health issues.

The total number of COVID-19 patients in Alaska sick enough to be hospitalized since March rose by one to 53 as of Monday, the state data shows. But the number of people hospitalized with either positive or “pending under investigation” results jumped from 11 reported Sunday to 21 reported Monday.

The pending data is reported by hospitals around the state through the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association and is a “point in time count that can and will fluctuate,” DHSS spokesman Clinton Bennett said in an email. The state dashboard relies only on positive cases, so there may be a lag time from when someone is hospitalized to when that hospitalization is noted in state data.

By status

State officials attributed a similar increase last week to a backlog in data that hadn’t previously been reported by some health care facilities.

A COVID-19 case prompted the temporary closure of a Kenai Peninsula coffee shop over the weekend. The Soldotna location of Kaladi Brothers was closed after the company was made aware of someone in the cafe with a positive test, owner Tim Gravel said Monday morning. He declined to say whether that person was a customer or an employee.

Gravel said he wasn’t sure when the Soldotna location would reopen. It is one of 16 Kaladi Brothers coffee shops in the state; several have not reopened during the pandemic, and all are limited to takeout services rather than sit-down.

“We don’t want to expose anybody to anything,” he said. “We just want to make sure everybody’s safe before we reopen.”

One new case was reported in a resident of a village in the Bethel area Monday. It wasn’t included in the state count.

A rapid test administered because of a medical procedure came back positive, YKHC said in a statement that did not release the name of the village the person is from in the interest of confidentiality.

But another test using the in-house lab analyzer with a “higher standard of virus detection” came back negative, meaning the sample provided didn’t meet a level of detection high enough to detect the virus, officials said. The person was tested a third time, with results expected back from the state public health lab in five to seven days.

The person is self-isolating in Bethel. YKHC with state epidemiologists is conducting contact tracing, follow-up testing and making sure precautions are taken to protect anyone they came in close contact with, the statement said. “Working closely with the local tribe and city government, YKHC is sending a village rapid response team to the affected village later today. The team will follow up with close contacts, provide widespread testing and offer medical support.”

Of the new Alaska cases, one is male and two are female, state health officials say. One is in their 30s; one is in their 40s; and one is in their 70s. The state logged six new recovered cases yesterday.

A total of 74,437 tests have been conducted, and the average percentage of daily positive tests for the previous three days is 0.62%, officials say.

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