A 67-year-old man died due to COVID-19 at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, and Alaska health officials reported a record 231 new COVID-19 cases statewide on Sunday.
It’s the first time the state has recorded more than 200 daily cases of the virus. The death in Fairbanks was reported by Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and not included in the state’s Sunday statistics, but will be included at a later date. Additional details about the death were not immediately available.
The 231 new cases reported by the state include 186 Alaskans and 45 non-residents, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. Five more people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with a total of 35 people hospitalized with confirmed cases statewide and another eight under investigation.
Of the resident cases, 154 were in Anchorage, according to the DHSS.
The reported cases Sunday come from a combination of widespread transmission from social gatherings, seafood industry outbreaks and a backlog of test results, DHSS said in an online statement. More than half of the test results are initially submitted by fax and some other results are reported by phone, DHSS said, and both methods require manual verification and data entry. The results arrive in batches that are not always submitted daily, the department said.
“Today’s high case count is partly due to our data team working to enter this backlogged data, but it also clearly shows we are experiencing widespread community transmission,” DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum said in the statement. “We have been in the management phase of this pandemic since May. In order for us to continue to manage the virus, we need to stop this current surge.”
Crum warned that daily case counts over 100 will diminish hospital capacity. The state’s intensive care unit beds were nearly half full Sunday, with 86 out of the 169 units open. More than half of the state’s 1,400 inpatient beds were filled Sunday, with 850 occupied.
“More announcements on mitigation strategy will be coming over the next couple days,” Crum said in the statement.
In addition to the 154 resident cases in Anchorage, there were nine in Fairbanks, three in Eagle River, two each in North Pole, Palmer, Juneau, Wrangell and an area in the Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon area, and one case each was reported in Chugiak, Homer, the Yukon-Koyukuk area, Houston, Wasilla, Ketchikan, Prince of Wales-Hyder area, Sitka and Unalaska.
Officials reported 34 non-resident cases Sunday in Seward, three in Fairbanks and one in Ketchikan. Seven of the cases were marked as “unknown” by DHSS. Thirty-four of the cases were reported in the seafood industry, one in the visitor industry and DHSS marked 10 of the cases as unknown.
Thirty-five people with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized and another eight people who may have the virus are in the hospital.
Alaska has had 3,102 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the DHSS coronavirus dashboard. More than two-thirds of the cases are currently active. Twenty-one Alaskans have died of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
The state has conducted more than 207,000 tests since March, according to DHSS. Roughly 1.9% of all COVID-19 tests were positive during the last three days.
Sunday marks the Anchorage’s highest number of cases reported in a single day. In the Anchorage Borough, 958 people were currently infected with the virus.
The Anchorage Health Department announced Saturday that there was a COVID-19 exposure on July 17 at the Anchorage Samoan Assembly of God in the Mountain View neighborhood. The department advised people who were at the church on that day should monitor for symptoms for 14 days following the exposure and get tested if they experience even mild symptoms.
This is the first church to be added to the health department’s list of potential exposures. The list also includes bars and restaurants.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz restricted capacity at bars, restaurants and entertainment facilities Friday. The restrictions also limit the number of people allowed to gather in groups. Berkowitz imposed a mask mandate a month earlier.
The City and Borough of Juneau announced ahead of the state that 21 seafood processor employees tested positive for COVID-19 Saturday. Sixty-one Alaska Glacier Seafoods employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 14. Forty more employees are awaiting test results, the city wrote in an online statement.
The virus was introduced to the processing plant by an employee who contracted COVID-19 through community spread, the city wrote.
The seafood employees are all in isolation and contact investigations are ongoing, the city said.
Officials in Juneau also announced 16 people tested positive for the virus unrelated to the seafood processing plant Saturday. The cases are likely due to community spread travel and secondary transmission, health officials in Juneau said.
Outbreaks of COVID-19 in the seafood industry have multiplied in previous weeks. Ninety-six seafood workers in Seward tested positive last week. A factory trawler carrying 85 infected crew members traveled to Seward from Unalaska last week to dock before sending the infected employees to Anchorage to quarantine.
As of Sunday, 950 people in the state have recovered from the virus since the pandemic began and 2,132 COVID-19 cases are active. There have been 115 Alaskans hospitalized because of COVID-19 since March.
More than 4 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 and over 145,000 have died of the virus as of Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.