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Alaska News

Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 523 new cases and 1 death reported Sunday as hospitalizations continue to rise

  • Author: Tess Williams
  • Updated: November 22
  • Published November 22
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Alaska reported 523 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and one new death.

The death of an Anchorage woman in her 80s was reported Sunday. In total, 102 Alaskans and one nonresident have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic arrived here in March, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.

On Sunday, the Department of Corrections reported the state’s first inmate death tied to COVID-19. The death will likely be reported in state health data on Monday.

A 69-year-old man serving a 90-year sentence at Goose Creek Correctional Center was taken to Anchorage’s Providence Hospital on Friday, the department said in an online statement. He had an underlying health condition that caused complications after he contracted COVID-19, the department said. He died Sunday at 10:56 a.m.

The department did not release the man’s name Sunday. Officials said he has been incarcerated since 2006 for first-degree murder.

A COVID-19 outbreak has gripped prisons nationwide, and the virus first appeared in Alaska prisons in May. An outbreak has since been identified in the state’s largest prison, the Goose Creek Correctional Center. Officials reported on Nov. 2 that 22 staff and inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, but by last week, that number had spiked to more than 200 cases.

As of Friday, 527 inmates statewide have tested positive for COVID-19. Another 950 tests were pending on Friday, according to the department’s COVID-19 tracker.

By Sunday, 138 people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 were hospitalized statewide, marking an increase from 124 on Saturday. Seventeen confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients were on ventilators Sunday and 44 adult intensive care unit beds remained available statewide

State health officials have repeatedly said they’re concerned about increasing hospitalizations in Alaska’s already stressed health care system, where hundreds of staff are currently in quarantine or isolation.

Health officials in Alaska and nationwide begged people to reconsider holiday plans as Thanksgiving approaches. A recent study in Alaska showed that two-thirds of Thanksgiving dinner guests may have an underlying health condition that could cause them to become seriously ill if infected with COVID-19.

Sunday’s new cases come just a day after the state reported the second-highest daily increase in COVID-19. There has only been one day in the last 10 where daily case increases fell below 500.

Alaska remained in high alert for community spread everywhere in the state on Sunday. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has been among the hardest hit recently, and tribal health officials last week stated the need for a monthlong lockdown in order to curb the virus’ spread.

Anchorage’s acting mayor, Austin Quinn-Davidson, did not impose further mandates last week but has said that the current case trend is unsustainable. If the case counts continue to spike, Quinn-Davidson said officials will consider new restrictions or shutdowns to stop the virus from spreading.

Of the 517 new cases reported Sunday in Alaska residents, 268 were in Anchorage, five in Chugiak, and 27 in Eagle River; one was in Anchor Point, four in Homer, 15 in Kenai, two in Nikiski, one in Seward, 19 in Soldotna and two in Sterling; one was in Kodiak; one was in Valdez and one in Cordova; one was in Healy; 37 were in Fairbanks and 8 in North Pole; nine were in Delta Junction and one in Tok; 11 were in Palmer, one in Sutton-Alpine, 23 in Wasilla and one in Willow; three were in Nome; one was in Utqiagvik; one was in Kotzebue; one was in Douglas and 12 in Juneau; four were in Sitka; seven were in Bethel; and one was in Dillingham. Three cases were in unknown portions of the state.

Among communities smaller than 1,000 people that are not named to protect privacy, there were four in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough and two in the borough’s southern portion; one was in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; five were in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; five were in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; four were in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one was in the Aleutians East Borough; 15 were in the Bethel Census Area; two were in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs; and six were in the Kusilvak Census Area.

Six cases were reported Sunday in nonresidents, including one in Anchorage, one oil worker in Prudhoe Bay and four infections in unknown portions of the state.

While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department only represents one person.

Of the new cases, it is not reported how many patients were showing symptoms when they tested positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about a third of people who have the virus are asymptomatic.

In total, 27,773 Alaskans or nonresidents in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 since March.

The state’s positivity rate Sunday was 8.74%. Health officials have warned that a positivity rate above 5% means there is high community transmission.

- Tess Williams