Alaska News

Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 3 deaths, 232 new infections reported Monday

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Alaska on Monday reported 232 new COVID-19 infections and three deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The deaths, all from death certificate reviews over the past several months, involved a woman from Soldotna and a man and woman from the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. All were 80 or older, state health officials say.

Those three cases mark the first time Alaska is counting probable deaths based on COVID-19 clinical and epidemiological criteria rather than a lab result, officials said in a statement Monday. “Counted deaths include deaths where the medical professional outlines COVID-19 as a part of the logical sequence of causes that led to death.”

That practice puts the state in line with the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists’ standards as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, officials say.

In total, 217 Alaskans and one nonresident with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state 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.

The state’s daily case counts have dropped from high levels in November and early December when the number of people dying with the virus also rose. The number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 swelled, spurring Anchorage to move into a monthlong modified hunker down phase during December, after which fewer infections were reported.

Restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen for dine-in service starting Jan. 1 with capacity restrictions.

The number of virus-related hospitalizations has dropped from high levels in early December. Seventy-five people with COVID-19 were in the hospital Monday and another 14 people in the hospital were suspected to have the virus, the health department said.

The state continues the early rollout of COVID-19 vaccine. As of Monday 18,266 people had received the vaccination, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. The people eligible now are generally health care workers. Alaskans 65 and older are next, although the vaccinations will likely begin toward the end of the month.

[Amid COVID-19 vaccine confusion, health officials clarify that most Alaska seniors can’t get shots yet]

Of the 227 new infections reported Monday in Alaska residents, there were 81 in Anchorage, plus two in Chugiak, 11 in Eagle River and one in Girdwood; two in Anchor Point, three in Homer, three in Kenai, one in Soldotna and six in Sterling; two in Kodiak; 14 in Fairbanks and four in North Pole; one in Big Lake, 13 in Palmer, 30 in Wasilla, and one in Willow; one in Nome; one in Haines; one in Petersburg; 17 in Bethel; one in Chevak and one in Hooper Bay.

Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there was one in the Copper River area; four in Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in Nome Census Area; two in North Slope Borough; 10 in Bethel Census Area; 12 in Kusilvak Census Area.

There were five cases in nonresidents reported Monday including two in Anchorage and three in people with the location under investigation.

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 Monday was 5.19% over a seven-day average. Health officials say anything above 5% can indicate inadequate testing and widespread community transmission. The state peaked at over 9% positivity in November.

-- Zaz Hollander