Alaska on Monday reported 152 coronavirus infections and no deaths associated with COVID-19, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.
The daily case count marks another new low since October after Sunday’s report of 185 new people testing positive for COVID-19. Through November, infection numbers soared to an unprecedented statewide high. The number of infections reported daily remains higher than reports through the spring, summer and early fall.
Health officials, who attribute part of the drop in cases to Anchorage’s “hunker down” order in place through the month, urge Alaskans to avoid gatherings with people outside their household through the holidays.
The state health department asked residents to “gather safely this season so we don’t overwhelm Alaska’s health care system and we can all be together next year” in a guide announced Monday. “A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is coming soon, but this winter we must remain vigilant.”
By Monday, there were 107 people with COVID-19 in Alaska hospitals and another four people in the hospital with suspected cases. Statewide, 39 intensive care unit beds were available out of 122 as of Monday.
In Anchorage hospitals, where the sickest patients are often treated, fewer than 25% of all beds remained open Monday, or 14 adult ICU beds available out of 65.
In total, 183 Alaskans and one nonresident with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began here in March. Alaska’s overall death rate per capita is among the lowest in the country, but officials say the state’s vast geography and vulnerable health care system make it difficult to compare with other states.
Alaska has begun a statewide vaccination effort, last week receiving more than 35,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The first doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived in the state Monday.
Hundreds of health care workers, emergency personnel and long-term care facility residents and staff are currently eligible for vaccination, but health officials say the general public likely won’t have access until the spring or summer. Health officials continue to recommend basic disease prevention practices, including wearing a mask, social distancing and hand washing.
Of the 150 cases reported in Alaska residents Monday, there were 83 in Anchorage plus four in Eagle River; four in Homer, one in Nikiski, and four in Soldotna; three in Kodiak; six in Fairbanks and seven in North Pole; two in Delta Junction; one in Houston, three in Palmer and six in Wasilla; one in Nome; one in Utqiagvik; one in Juneau; one in Sitka; six in Bethel; and one in Chevak.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were two in the Bethel Census Area and 13 in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were also two cases among nonresidents currently residing in Alaska, including one in Anchorage and one in an unidentified community.
While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only one person.
It is not clear how many of the people who tested positive for the virus were showing symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control estimates about a third of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.
The statewide test positivity rate as of Monday was 4.47% over a 7-day average. Health experts say anything above 5% can indicate inadequate testing and potentially widespread community transmission. The state reached a peak of over 9% positivity in mid-November.
-- Zaz Hollander