Alaska on Monday reported 101 new COVID-19 infections and no new deaths related to the virus, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
Monday’s case count follows over a month of lower daily numbers. Alaska saw a peak in November and early December that caused concern about hospital capacity. For the first time since September, daily case counts fell into the double digits twice last week.
As infections continue at steadily lower numbers, Acting Anchorage Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson announced last week that the city would relax COVID-19 restrictions. A new emergency order is now in effect which will allow more people inside bars and restaurants and ease limits on gathering size.
Despite the lower case numbers throughout January, Alaska is still in the highest alert category based on the current per capita rate of infection.
The seafood industry has again been hit with multiple outbreaks among vessels and processing facilities in the Aleutian Islands. Some of the facilities have temporarily closed just as winter fishing season began.
Hospitalizations have fallen simultaneously with infection numbers, and are now less than a third of where they were during the peak in November and December. By Monday, there were 39 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state. Another four patients were believed to have the virus, and 10 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
No new deaths were reported Monday. In total, 260 Alaskans and two nonresidents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state in March. 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.
Health officials are urging Alaskans to continue taking the pandemic seriously, even as case numbers have dropped. Scientists at the state’s public health labs confirmed last week that a highly contagious variant of the virus reached Alaska last month.
The vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Monday, 95,881 people — about 13% of Alaska’s population — had received at least their first vaccine shot, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard. That’s far above the national average of 7.6%.
Health care workers and nursing home staff and residents were the first people prioritized to receive the vaccine. In early January, the state said Alaskans older than 65 were now eligible, although appointment slots are limited and have filled quickly.
Thousands of new vaccine appointments went live on the state’s website this week, many of which are still available. Seniors and other eligible health care workers can call 907-646-3322 for assistance making a February appointment.
Mass vaccination clinics, like a walk-up clinic offered by the Anchorage School District on Feb. 11-13, will continue to be announced throughout the month, health officials said.
Of the 63 cases announced in Alaska residents Monday, there were 25 in Anchorage plus three in Eagle River; one in Kenai; three in Kodiak; three in Fairbanks plus two in North Pole; 10 in Palmer; three in Sutton-Alpine; nine in Wasilla;
Among communities with populations under 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there was one in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; one in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; one in the Northwest Arctic Borough; and one in the Bethel Census Area.
Thirty-eight infections were also identified in nonresidents in the state, including 15 in the Aleutians East Borough, 11 in Unalaska, and 12 in an unidentified region of the state.
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.
Of the total COVID-19 tests completed statewide over the past week, 2.42% have come back positive.
- Annie Berman