Alaska on Saturday reported one death and 447 new cases of COVID-19, according to the Department of Health and Social Services COVID-19 dashboard.
An Anchorage man in his 70s died with the virus, the state health department said. In total, 82 Alaskans with the virus have died since the start of the pandemic, and Alaska’s death rate per capita remains among the lowest in the country.
A record 76 people were hospitalized with the virus in Alaska as of Saturday, plus 18 people were hospitalized with suspected cases of COVID-19, according to state data.
Saturday’s daily new case tally of 447 is the second-highest since the pandemic began, and follows more than a month of triple-digit daily increases, including a record 526 cases reported last Sunday.
Cases in Anchorage are beginning to spread among older adults, city health officials said Friday. The number of residents between 75 and 84 years old who tested positive for COVID-19 tripled over the past week, Janet Johnston, epidemiologist at the Anchorage Health Department, told reporters. The rise in cases among older adults in Anchorage after initial virus surges in younger populations follows a trend seen nationally. Younger people tend to fare better when they get sick with COVID-19 and are less likely to end up hospitalized.
The city is also seeing an uptick in deaths — seven of the city’s 49 COVID-19 deaths were recorded last week, Johnston said. Hospitalizations also increased to record highs.
Anchorage was in the middle of several COVID-19 clusters in both staff and residents at assisted living, skilled nursing and residential treatment facilities, said Bruce Chandler, medical officer at city health department.
The city health department has seen that many people are experiencing long-term consequences from COVID-19, he said. That includes people who are young and otherwise healthy. “We have people in our hospitals now who are now three months into their illness,” Chandler said.
Chandler also noted the mental health impacts that Alaskans are experiencing. While children aren’t ending up in the hospital with COVID-19, Chandler said he’s heard from a doctor that they had seen a “large number of children and teens with mental health concerns, especially suicide attempts and eating disorders.”
He encouraged everyone to watch out for one another and seek help if needed. “We’re clearly walking on the edge with this pandemic,” Chandler said.
Of the 440 new resident cases reported by the state Saturday, there were 229 in Anchorage, plus eight in Eagle River, four in Chugiak and one in Girdwood; 35 in Fairbanks; 20 in Kenai; 14 in Chevak; 12 in Wasilla; 11 in Juneau; 10 in Bethel; 10 in Soldotna; eight in Palmer; eight in Kodiak; five in Kotzebue; four in Sterling; four in North Pole; three in Nikiski; three in Sitka; two in Homer; two in Utqiagvik; two in Hooper Bay; one in Valdez; one in Anchor Point; one in Seward; one in Delta Junction; one in Tok; one in Willow; one in Douglas; one in Ketchikan; and one in Petersburg.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people that are not named to protect privacy, there were 23 resident cases in the Bethel Census Area; four in the Nome Census Area; three in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs; two in the Northwest Arctic Borough; two in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; and one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
There were also seven nonresident cases reported Saturday: three in Anchorage, one in Fairbanks, one in Dillingham, one in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs and one classified as unknown.
With a surge in virus cases persisting throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, tribal health officials on Saturday urged residents to take protective measures even if a case hasn’t been identified within their community. Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp.'s advice to residents echoed what state health officials have repeatedly encouraged Alaskans to do: avoid gatherings, get tested, engage in frequent handwashing, stay at least 6 feet from others and wear a mask in public.
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 continued to rise and on Friday reached 7.3% over a seven-day rolling average. A positivity rate over 5% can indicate high community transmission and not enough testing, health officials have said.
— Morgan Krakow
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