Alaska on Tuesday reported 217 new COVID-19 infections and the 200th death of an Alaskan with the virus, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.
The death involved an Anchorage man in his 50s, according to the state health department. In a social media post, the department offered condolences to all who had lost loved ones due to the virus.
“Each of (the 200 who died) had their own unique life story and circle of loved ones,” the post said. “We offer our condolences to those who grieve and share in their loss.”
Tuesday’s numbers followed Monday’s low count of 126 cases, part of a trend of fewer cases reported in recent weeks after a surge through November into early December. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are also declining. Health officials say a hunker-down order in Anchorage played a role in the decline, as did voluntary actions taken by people around the state.
Death is a lagging indicator, meaning they often happen after a surge in cases, and half of Alaska’s virus deaths were reported in the last six weeks.
In total, 200 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 received its first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December. Hospital health care workers, emergency personnel and residents and staff at long-term care facilities were prioritized to receive the first doses.
By Tuesday morning, 13,271 Alaskans had received vaccinations, according to the state’s vaccine information site, which lags slightly behind real time.
Seventy-two Alaskans with COVID-19 were hospitalized as of Tuesday and another nine were suspected to have the virus. Nearly 9% of adults in Alaska hospitals have COVID-19.
Hospitalizations have decreased statewide within the last few weeks. In Anchorage, where the sickest patients are often treated, there were 18 intensive care unit beds available out of 68.
Of the 210 infections reported Tuesday among Alaska residents, there were 64 in Anchorage, plus 33 in Eagle River and two in Chugiak; 28 in Wasilla; 23 in Fairbanks; 13 in Palmer; eight in Kodiak; six in North Pole; three in Ketchikan; three in Bethel; three in Soldotna; two in Delta Junction; one in Tok; one in Big Lake; one in Kenai; one in Seward; one in Craig; one in Sitka; one in Utqiagvik; and one in Dillingham.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were two in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; three in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; one in the Nome Census Area; one in the North Slope Borough; one in the Northwest Arctic Borough; two in the Bethel Census Area; and four in the Dillingham Census Area.
There were seven cases reported among nonresidents, including four in Anchorage and three in an unidentified region of the state.
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 and Prevention estimates about a third of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.
The statewide test positivity rate as of Tuesday was 4.56% over a seven-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