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Alaska News

Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 503 new cases reported Monday as surge continues in rural communities

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: November 24, 2020
  • Published November 23, 2020
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Alaska reported 503 new COVID-19 cases Monday but no new deaths.

Separately, health officials in the Yukon-Kuskowkim Delta reported 71 new cases Sunday including 30 in the village of Akiak alone. Surging case numbers in the region, coupled with a fragile health care system, prompted tribal health officials last week to call for a monthlong lockdown. Health officials in Nome reported 40 active cases as of Sunday. Twenty-five people on the North Slope also tested positive through the weekend into Monday, according to the Arctic Slope Native Association. Twenty are Utqiagvik residents.

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.

By Monday, 128 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were hospitalized statewide and another 13 patients were awaiting test results. Nineteen confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients were on ventilators Sunday.

Days of new daily case counts topping 500 and rising hospitalizations are prompting renewed concern about the sustainability of Alaska’s already stressed health care system. Hundreds of workers are currently in quarantine or isolation.

Health officials in Alaska and nationwide begged people to reconsider holiday plans as Thanksgiving approaches. Anchorage’s acting mayor, Austin Quinn-Davidson, has said municipal officials will consider new restrictions or shutdowns if the current unsustainable trends continue.

Health care capacity is even more fragile in rural communities that rely on local clinics and hospitals in hub communities like Bethel and Kotzebue. Many of the hospitals, however, don’t have intensive care units so sicker patients must be flown to Anchorage.

Alaska remained on high alert for community spread everywhere in the state on Monday.

Of the 501 new resident cases reported Monday in Alaska residents, there were 256 in Anchorage, nine in Chugiak, and 31 in Eagle River; six in Kenai, three in Seward, four in Soldotna; six in Kodiak; one in Valdez; 34 in Fairbanks and four in North Pole; nine in Palmer, 14 in Wasilla and one in Willow; five in Nome; one in Utqiagvik; six in Kotzebue; one in Douglas and five in Juneau; one in Ketchikan; five in Sitka; 18 in Bethel; one in Dillingham; and two in Hooper Bay. There was one case listed as an unknown location.

Among communities smaller than 1,000 people that are not named to protect privacy, there were five in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; five in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; four in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in Northwest Arctic Borough; two in Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon; three in Aleutians East Borough; 55 in Bethel Census Area; and two in Kusilvak Census Area.

Two cases were reported Monday in nonresidents in Anchorage.

While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only 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 Monday was 8.74%. Health officials have warned that a positivity rate above 5% means there is high community transmission.

-- Zaz Hollander

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