Alaska on Saturday reported 195 new COVID-19 infections and no new deaths from the virus, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
In total, 228 Alaskans and one nonresident with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state in March, including 23 deaths that were reported since Jan. 1. 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.
By Saturday, 54 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized around Alaska and another four patients were suspected of having the virus, according to the state health department. Hospitalizations have declined to less than half the numbers reported during a peak in November and early December.
While COVID-19 cases have decreased in recent weeks, they’re beginning to plateau and the state remains in a high alert status.
In Anchorage, while case counts and hospitalizations have stabilized, they’ve done so at levels that raise concern, according to Janet Johnston, epidemiologist with the Anchorage Health Department. That pattern is similar to a pattern the city saw in October, just before a major spike in cases.
“This is a tremendous improvement, but I want people to keep in mind that this is a level of virus that is high in the community and it means that if we start to see an increase in the transmission rate, we could be back where we were very quickly,” Johnston said in a video message Friday.
Vaccines reached Alaska in mid-December. As of the most recent update Friday, 43,992 people had received their first dose of vaccine and 10,954 had received both doses required for the vaccine to be fully effective, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard.
State officials this week said the state has allocated the vaccine received for December and January, but there are still appointments and large clinics occurring in the coming days and weeks.
For more information, the public can visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322 and leave a message. A recording says calls will be returned in the order they’re received within 48 hours but users report longer delays.
Of the 190 new cases reported among residents, there were 56 in Anchorage, five in Chugiak, three in Eagle River and one in Girdwood; 21 in Wasilla; 13 in Palmer; 10 in Fairbanks; nine in Bethel; seven in North Pole; five in Soldotna; five in Kodiak; four in Utqiagvik; three in Unalaska; two in Kenai; one in Big Lake; one in Nome; one in Kotzebue; and one in Juneau.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were 15 in the Kusilvak Census Area; 11 in the Bethel Census Area; nine in the North Slope Borough; two in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; two in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in the Copper River region; one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; and one in the Northwest Arctic Borough.
Five nonresidents tested positive for COVID-19: two in Wasilla, one in the Northwest Arctic Borough, one in Juneau and one in an unknown location.
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 Saturday was 3.53% 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.
— Morgan Krakow
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