Alaska on Wednesday reported 353 new COVID-19 infections and two deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The deaths occurred recently and involved two Anchorage men, one in his 60s and one in his 70s, the state health department said.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 rose by more than 10 between Tuesday and Wednesday from 75 to 86, state data shows. Another seven hospitalized people were waiting for test results.
In total, 219 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.
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 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 was expected to 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 after noon and getting shots next week, ahead of schedule. That group wasn’t initially expected to receive vaccinations until late January.
There were scattered reports of seniors getting vaccinated already this week. That’s because the state allowed some appointments already scheduled to go forward, officials say.
There were also sporadic reports of problems after the website went live for senior vaccine appointments. The site appeared to be operating normally through early afternoon. But at least one major pharmacy — at the Costco on West Dimond Boulevard in Anchorage — was telling patients they didn’t have enough vaccine for senior vaccinations to start Monday. The Girdwood Health Clinic’s website on Wednesday told users they did not currently have vaccine but anticipated having stock soon. The phone line to make appointments at Palmer’s Fred Meyer pharmacy wasn’t working midafternoon Wednesday.
Of the 342 new infections reported Wednesday among Alaska residents, there were 112 in Anchorage, plus nine in Chugiak, 11 in Eagle River and two in Girdwood; one in Homer, six in Kenai, two in Nikiski, four in Soldotna, and one in Sterling; eight in Kodiak; one in Cordova; 55 in Fairbanks and seven in North Pole; two in Delta Junction; 43 in Wasilla, three in Big Lake, one in Houston, nine in Palmer and two in Willow; 10 in Utqiagvik; seven in Kotzebue; seven in Juneau; five in Ketchikan; three in Petersburg; one in Sitka; six in Unalaska; and seven in Bethel.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there was one on the northern Kenai Peninsula; one in the Chugach Census Area; one in the Copper River Census Area; three in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; two in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; two in the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area; one in the Bethel Census Area; one in the Dillingham Census Area; and five in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were 11 cases among nonresidents reported Wednesday: one in Anchorage, four in the Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon region and six in locations still 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 Wednesday was 4.99% 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
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