Alaska on Saturday reported 251 new COVID-19 infections and five virus-related deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The five deaths involved four Wasilla residents — a woman and a man over 80, a woman in her 70s and a man in his 70s — and an Anchorage woman in her 60s, the state health department said Saturday afternoon. The deaths were identified “from death certificate reviews over the past several months,” according to the health department.
Saturday’s case count continues a trend of declining infection numbers after a peak in November and early December that prompted concerns about hospital capacity.
As of Saturday, there were 47 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state and another three patients suspected to have the virus. Seven of these patients were on ventilators. Hospitalizations are now less than a third of where they were during the peak in November and December.
In total, 257 Alaskans and two nonresidents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state in March. The state on Wednesday reported 24 deaths — the most announced in a single day, though only one of those deaths occurred recently. The rest were identified during a review of death certificates completed over the last several months, according to state health officials.
Alaska’s death rate per capita is still among the lowest in the country, but the state’s size and vulnerable health care system complicate national comparisons.
Vaccines first arrived in the state in December and by Saturday at least 72,145 people — nearly 10% of the state’s population — had received the first dose, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard. At least 16,186 people had received the second dose. Alaska has currently vaccinated more residents per capita than any other state, according to a national tracker.
Health care workers and nursing home staff and residents were the first group to receive the vaccinations. Early this month, the state opened up the vaccines to adults older than 65, although appointment slots are limited and have filled quickly.
For more information about vaccination appointments, 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 some users have reported longer delays.
Despite relative progress on the state’s vaccine effort and a drop in cases, Alaska is still grappling with a few specific outbreaks at fish processing plants in the Aleutian Islands. By Saturday, three processor plants had closed due to outbreaks, endangering some catches to potential spoil, Alaska Public Media reported.
Two of the plants are in Unalaska: An Alyeska Seafoods plant in the city temporarily closed Friday because of virus cases detected among workers, the City of Unalaska said, and a Unisea plant there had already halted operations due to an outbreak. In remote Akutan, a Trident Seafoods plant — the largest seafood production facility in North America — said Thursday that it would pause operations for three weeks so workers could quarantine and get tested after employees there were confirmed to have COVID-19.
Of the 241 cases reported among Alaska residents Saturday, there were 59 in Anchorage plus one in Chugiak and 13 in Eagle River; 21 in Bethel; 17 in Wasilla; 13 in North Pole; 12 in Fairbanks; 10 in Palmer; six in Juneau; three in Unalaska; two in Hooper Bay; one in Seward; one in Soldotna; one in Cordova; one in Valdez; and one in Sitka.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were 58 in the Bethel Census Area; 11 in the Kusilvak Census Area; two in the Copper River region; two in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; two in the Dillingham Census Area; one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; one in the Nome Census Area; one in the Northwest Arctic Borough; and one in the combined Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula boroughs.
Ten nonresidents in the state also tested positive for the virus, including seven in the Aleutians East Borough, one in Anchorage, one in Fairbanks and one in Wasilla.
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.
Over the past week, 3.27% of all tests completed statewide came back positive.
— Morgan Krakow
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