Alaska on Thursday reported 184 new coronavirus infections and no new deaths related to COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The latest count follows over a month of declining cases. Alaska saw a surge of infections in November and early December that strained hospital capacity. For the first time since September, daily case counts fell into the double digits twice last week.
Despite the lower case numbers throughout January, Alaska is still in the highest alert category based on the current per capita rate of infection, and public health officials continue to encourage Alaskans to keep up with personal virus mitigation efforts like hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing.
Scientists at the state’s public health labs confirmed last week that a highly contagious variant of the virus reached Alaska last month.
Hospitalizations have fallen along with cases, and are now less than a third of where they were during the peak in November and December. By Thursday, there were 41 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state. Another two patients were believed to have the virus, and ten patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
No new deaths were reported Thursday. In total, 277 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.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Thursday, 99,814 — nearly 14% of Alaska’s total 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 8.2%.
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 last week, many of which are still available. Seniors and other eligible health care workers can call 907-646-3322 for assistance making an 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 158 cases announced among Alaska residents Thursday, there were 31 in Anchorage plus two in Chugiak and two in Eagle River; 18 in Wasilla; 16 in Fairbanks; 14 in Palmer; nine in Bethel; four in North Pole; three in Juneau; two in Ketchikan; one in Kenai; one in Nome; one in Douglas; one in Petersburg; one in Sitka; one in Unalaska; and one in Dillingham.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were 28 in the Bethel Census Area; 17 in the Kusilvak Census Area; two in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; two in the Dillingham Census Area; and one in the North Slope Borough.
There were also 26 cases among nonresidents in Alaska, including 23 in the Aleutians East Census Area, two in Unalaska and one 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.
— Annie Berman