Alaska on Tuesday reported 206 new COVID-19 infections and no deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The number of new cases marks a generally positive trend of declining daily counts. But higher counts were reported in the Fairbanks area as well as the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, where limited health care capacity poses a challenge.
In total, 217 Alaskans and one nonresident with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state in March. Alaska’s death rate per capita is among the lowest in the country, though the state’s size and vulnerable health care system complicate national comparisons.
Starting this week, Alaska began adding in probable deaths of people with the virus as determined by medical providers in addition to those established by a lab result. Three deaths from prior months, all people 80 or older, were added to the state’s total.
The state’s daily case counts have dropped from high levels in November and early December. Anchorage officials ordered a monthlong modified hunker down phase during December, after which fewer infections were reported.
Health officials say they’re still concerned about a post-holiday spike in new cases.
The number of virus-related hospitalizations has dropped from high levels in early December. Seventy-five people with COVID-19 were in the hospital as of Tuesday and another 10 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, which will be updated Wednesday. The people eligible now are generally health care workers.
After several days of confusion, state officials on Monday announced Alaskans 65 and older can start making vaccination appointments Wednesday and getting shots next week, ahead of schedule. That group wasn’t expected to receive vaccinations until late January.
The state on Tuesday updated the status of COVID-19 within the Pioneer Home system. Since late December, the Anchorage Pioneer Home has identified one new case in a staff member. Since this outbreak began on Nov. 3, there have been a total of 30 resident and 17 staff cases and three deaths.
The Fairbanks Pioneer Home has identified two new cases among staff. No residents have tested positive at either facility. The other four homes — Juneau, Ketchikan, Palmer and Sitka — have no cases, officials say.
Of the 203 new infections reported Tuesday among Alaska residents, there were 57 in Anchorage, plus three in Chugiak and three in Girdwood; 32 in Fairbanks and 10 in North Pole; 27 in Wasilla and eight in Palmer; 14 in Bethel; three in Kenai, two in Soldotna, two in Seward, one in Nikiski, one in Homer and one in Sterling; three in Kodiak; one in Tok; one in Utqiagvik; two in Kotzebue; one in Juneau; three in Ketchikan; one in Petersburg; two in Sitka; two in Unalaska; and two in Hooper Bay.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were 13 in the Bethel Census Area; five in the North Slope Borough; one in the Northwest Arctic Borough; one in the Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon region; and one in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were three cases among nonresidents reported Tuesday, all 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.
The state’s data doesn’t specify whether people testing positive for COVID-19 have symptoms. More than half of the nation’s infections are transmitted from asymptomatic people, according to CDC estimates.
The statewide test positivity rate as of Tuesday was 5.16% 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