Alaska reported a near-record increase in the number of novel coronavirus cases Wednesday, with 40 new cases involving residents and nine involving nonresidents.
One more infected resident reportedly required hospitalization for a total of 79 since the pandemic began in March, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services COVID-19 dashboard. None of the state’s hospitalized patients needed a ventilator.
There were 19 people hospitalized with the virus in Anchorage hospitals on Wednesday, according to Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association data available through the municipal COVID-19 dashboard.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patient numbers stayed in the single digits until July 3, when they suddenly jumped into the double digits, where they remain.
Hospital and state health officials this week said health care capacity remains healthy but they’re watching the rising numbers given Alaska’s limited hospital resources.
Still, the state’s chief medical officer on Wednesday urged residents to “pull back” their level of social interaction and with it, their exposure to the virus.
“We have the power to slow this disease and crush the curve again,” Dr. Anne Zink said during a science briefing Wednesday.
But it’s up to Alaskans to do that, Zink said.
She called face masks a “simple tool” to avoid COVID-19 transmission and recommended that people order food online rather than dining out and emphasize outdoor activities that are healthy but also make for less time spent inside gyms.
No new deaths were reported Wednesday. Seventeen Alaskans have died with coronavirus listed as a contributing cause. The latest victim announced Tuesday was a Wasilla woman in her 70s with underlying health problems.
It wasn’t clear how many of the new cases involved people with symptoms of the virus, as opposed to asymptomatic people who got tested for travel or other requirements.
The 49 new cases reported Wednesday came after the state hit a record high of 50 reported cases July 3.
Nearly half the new resident cases involve people from the Anchorage area, according to state data.
There were 17 new resident cases in Anchorage and one each in Chugiak and Eagle River. Six cases were in Kenai residents and three in Soldotna. Three cases were reported each among Palmer and North Pole residents. Two were reported in Fairbanks. One new case was reported each among residents of Cordova, the Northwest Arctic Borough, Unalaska and the Kusilvak Census Area in Southwest Alaska.
The upturn of cases statewide has strained the state’s ability to swiftly conduct contact tracing, a key component to slowing the spread of the virus.
Alaska has been seeing a steady rise in active coronavirus cases since late May, when the state lifted most pandemic-related restrictions in response to low daily case counts and a boost in personal protective equipment and health care capacity. Several cases have been tied to bars and other entertainment establishments as well as large gatherings.
State officials urge people to avoid certain high-risk activities: being in an enclosed space; being in a crowd or unable to physically distance yourself from others; having longer interactions with people outside your household; and being around forceful exhalations, like coughing, yelling or singing.
The new numbers bring Alaska’s total case count since March to 1,474, involving 1,226 residents and 248 nonresidents.
More than half the state’s total cases are people considered to have active infections now.
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