Alaska on Wednesday reported 353 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death, according to the Department of Health and Social Services COVID-19 dashboard.
The new death involved a Kenai woman in her 80s, according to Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer.
Virus transmission across Alaska continues to accelerate at an alarming rate in both rural and urban regions, state officials say: In the past week, the state has seen a 56% increase in the total number of cases, Zink said on a call Wednesday.
Anchorage officials on Wednesday separately issued a public health advisory urging residents to ramp up their personal COVID-19 precautions as a local surge in cases continues to swell.
A record 63 people were hospitalized with the virus in Alaska as of Wednesday afternoon, up from the previous record of 59 on Friday.
An additional 17 people with suspected cases of the virus were also hospitalized.
In total, 71 Alaskans have died with COVID-19, according to data reported by the state Wednesday.
Alaska’s most recent surge in cases, the largest yet, follows a national trend.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alaska had the eighth highest per capita case rate in the country over the last week, with 45.5 cases per 100,000 — well above the national average.
Zink said that Alaska’s uptick in cases represents a new phase in the pandemic.
The first phase was the “hunker-down” period, when little was known about the virus. The state was building up its response then, and the epidemic curve trended down.
“Phase two was really, how can we sustain this and keep cases low while living our lives,” Zink said. “Unfortunately, we’re really entering phase three with acceleration. So we’re really asking individuals to change their individual behavior."
Closely following public health recommendations has never been more important, Zink said. This includes maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others, avoiding gatherings and wearing a face covering in public or around people not in your immediate household.
The state health department this week also urged people to get a test and isolate if they’re experiencing even just one of the symptoms of COVID-19, which include coughing, fever, fatigue, muscle aches, diarrhea, a loss of taste or smell, vomiting, headaches and a runny nose, among other symptoms.
Of the 350 new cases reported among residents on Wednesday, 168 were in Anchorage; 55 in Wasilla; 23 in Fairbanks; 18 in Palmer; 13 in Kenai; 11 in Soldotna; nine in North Pole; seven in Eagle River; six in Juneau; five in Kotzebue; three in Nikiski; three in Bethel; three in Tok; two in Sterling; one in Girdwood; one in Chugiak; one in Delta Junction; one in Big Lake; one in Meadow Lakes; one in Utqiagvik; one in Douglas; and one in an unidentified region of the state.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people that are not named to protect privacy, there were five in the Dillingham Census Area; four in the Bethel Census Area; two in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; one in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; one in the Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon region; one in the Aleutians West Census Area; one in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs; and one in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were also three nonresident cases reported Wednesday: one in Anchorage and two in an unidentified region of the state.
Of the new cases, it wasn’t clear how many patients were showing symptoms of the virus when they tested positive. While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department only represents one person.
The state’s testing positivity rate as of Wednesday was 6.69% over a seven-day rolling average, a record since the pandemic began. A positivity rate over 5% can indicate high community transmission and not enough testing, health officials have said.
The state health department on Wednesday also provided an update on four cases at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute announced last week. Two of the four were previously known COVID-19 cases and are no longer considered active; the third “was incorrectly identified as a positive case”; and the fourth patient, who tested positive before their admission to API, remains isolated with an active case of the illness, according to DHSS. The state health department initially said that new admissions would not be taken for two weeks, but on Wednesday said that admissions have resumed.
— Annie Berman
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