Alaska’s coronavirus surge continued Wednesday with data from the state health department showing 710 new infections and rising hospitalizations but no new deaths.
That marks the second-highest daily tally of new virus cases in the pandemic so far — the state reported 745 new COVID-19 cases on Nov. 14.
The surge prompted Anchorage officials on Wednesday to impose sweeping pandemic restrictions not seen since the spring.
Alaska’s hospitalizations have continued to tick up in recent weeks, putting intense pressure on the state’s already stretched health care system. Contact tracing efforts have been overwhelmed, causing officials to urge COVID-positive Alaskans to personally notify their own close contacts.
Statewide as of Wednesday, 136 people with COVID-19 were currently hospitalized and an additional nine hospital patients were suspected of having the illness. Twenty-two confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients were on ventilators, according to state data.
A total of 115 Alaskans and one nonresident have died with COVID-19 since March, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. On Tuesday, the state reported 13 new deaths, the most tallied in a single day since the pandemic began in March. Nationally there were nearly 2,100 deaths reported, the most in a single day in over six months.
Anchorage Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson announced Wednesday that the municipality will enter a modified version of a “hunker-down” beginning Dec. 1 that will last through the end of the month, citing grave threats to the city’s and state’s health care capacity as a top concern.
Bars and restaurants will be shuttered except for takeout, delivery and outdoor dining; new limits on gathering sizes and business capacity will be enforced; and all residents will be asked to avoid non-essential outings outside their home.
Of the 700 new cases reported Wednesday among Alaska residents, 381 were in Anchorage, plus 19 in Eagle River, seven in Chugiak and one in Girdwood; 20 in Soldotna, 14 in Homer, 12 in Kenai, four in Sterling, three in Seward, two in Nikiski and two in Anchor Point; 27 in Wasilla, nine in Palmer, one in Big Lake, one in Houston and one in Willow; 21 in Fairbanks and four in North Pole; 18 in Bethel; 15 in Utqiagvik; 11 in Kodiak; 10 in Juneau; nine in Sitka; seven in Delta Junction; four in Nome; two in Tok; one in Ketchikan; one in Cordova; one in Chevak; and one in an unidentified region of the state.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were 65 resident cases in the Bethel Census Area; six in the Aleutians East Borough; four in the Kusilvak Census Area; three in the Dillingham Census Area; two in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; two in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; two in the North Slope Borough; one in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; one in the Denali Borough; one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; one in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in the Mat-Su Borough; one in the Nome Census Area; and one in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs.
Ten cases were reported Wednesday among nonresidents: three in Anchorage; one in a smaller community in the Northwest Arctic Borough; one in Juneau; and five in unidentified regions of the state.
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.
An outbreak in Goose Creek Correctional Center in Mat-Su, Alaska’s largest prison, also continued to grow this week with a total of 299 inmates testing positive as of Wednesday, a majority of them active cases. One inmate has died, and four have been hospitalized.
The state’s positivity rate as of Wednesday was 6.5%. Health officials have warned that a positivity rate above 5% means there is high community transmission.
In total, 29,543 Alaskans and nonresidents in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 since March.
— Annie Berman