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Alaska News

New report reveals stark disparities by race, age and gender in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in Alaska

  • Author: Annie Berman
  • Updated: October 29
  • Published October 29
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Two new reports released by the state on Thursday take a close look at the coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations that have occurred in Alaska between January and mid-October.

They show that so far, Alaska’s overall mortality and hospitalization rates have been lower than the rest of the country. The national COVID-19 death rate is about seven times higher than Alaska’s, and the U.S. overall hospitalization is about four times higher.

Another key finding was that among the deceased for whom a past medical history had been obtained, every one had at least one underlying medical condition that the CDC defines as being associated with increased risk for severe illness from the virus. About half had between one and three underlying medical conditions, and 40% had four to six conditions.

Nearly all — 93% — of those hospitalized in Alaska (for whom a past medical history was known) also had a high-risk underlying medical condition, the report said.

The reports also reveal that race, age and gender have all been factors in the likelihood of death and severe illness from COVID-19 in Alaska.

While state data has showed similar disparities in case counts for a while, the new reports found that mortality and hospitalization rates follow similar trends.

These rates were both highest among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, who make up just 1% of the state population but 15% of total virus hospitalizations and 10% of COVID-19 deaths. The per capita death rate for this group is 83.6 per 100,000, compared to just 6.6 for white Alaskans.

The rates were also high among Alaska Natives, who make up about 16% of the population but a third of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, with a per capita death rate of 26.7. The mortality rate was also high for Asian Alaskans at 18.5 per 100,000, and for Black Alaskans at 14.1 per 100,000.

“These disparities highlight enduring systemic health and social inequities that have put many people of color at increased risk for COVID-19 acquisition, hospitalization, and death,” the report said.

Men were also more likely to die with the virus: They made up 63% of the total deaths. They were, however, hospitalized at a similar rate to women.

The CDC has also said that the older people are, the more likely they are to die or be hospitalized with the virus, and that trend was present in Alaska’s data too: Death rates were highest among people older than 80, followed by those in their 70s.

Alaskans over the age of 65 made up about 80% of the state’s total deaths, and the vast majority of total hospitalizations.

“COVID-19 is a life-threatening illness,” the report said. “As such, it is important for all Alaskans to do their part to prevent disease transmission. When we all do our part, we protect individuals at greater risk of severe COVID-19.”

These measures include maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet from others, avoiding crowds, wearing a mask and washing hands frequently.

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