Alaska on Tuesday reported 429 new coronavirus infections and 10 deaths associated with COVID-19, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.
Four of the deaths were recent, involving: an Anchorage woman in her 80s, an Anchorage woman in her 70s, an Anchorage man in his 70s and an Anchorage man in his 60s.
The other six deaths were identified through a standard review of death certificates over the last several months, according to the state health department. These involved a man from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in his 80s, an Anchorage woman in her 80s, two Anchorage men in their 70s, an Anchorage woman in her 60s and a Big Lake man in his 40s.
State officials have said infections and hospitalizations now appear to be leveling off statewide, noting in a weekly summary that there was a 35% decrease in new cases over the last week compared to the week before.
However, the number of infections reported daily remains higher than reports through the spring, summer and early fall, and hospital capacity and staffing issues remain a concern, state officials say.
They attribute part of the drop in cases to Anchorage’s “hunker down” order in place through the month, and continue to urge Alaskans to avoid gatherings with people outside their household through the holidays.
By Tuesday, there were 115 people with COVID-19 in Alaska hospitals and another six people in the hospital with suspected cases. Statewide, 67 intensive care unit beds were available as of Tuesday.
In total, 193 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.
By Tuesday morning, the state’s vaccine website showed that 7,118 people in the state had been vaccinated so far. That tracker shows the number of vaccines administered slightly behind real time.
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 426 cases reported in Alaska residents Tuesday, there were 179 in Anchorage, plus nine in Chugiak and 16 in Eagle River; one in Anchor Point; seven in Homer; three in Kenai; four in Seward; eight in Soldotna; 27 in Kodiak; one in Valdez; 16 in Fairbanks, plus one in North Pole; one in Tok; 20 in Palmer; 83 in Wasilla; one in Willow; two in Utqiagvik; one in Kotzebue; 18 in Juneau; and 13 in Bethel.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there was one case in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; one in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in the Mat-Su Borough; one in the North Slope Borough; seven in the Bethel Census Area; one in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula area; one in the Dillingham Census Area; and two in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were also three cases among nonresidents currently in Alaska, all in Anchorage.
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 Tuesday was 4.66% 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% test positivity in mid-November.
— Annie Berman