There were 502 new coronavirus infections and no new deaths related to COVID-19 reported Saturday through Monday, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services. The department no longer updates its coronavirus dashboard on the weekend, and instead will include those numbers in Monday’s update.
According to state data, on Monday, 96 cases among residents and nonresidents were reported. The latest case counts follow over a month of steadily declining cases. Alaska saw a surge of infections in November and early December that strained hospital capacity before leveling off.
Hospitalizations in Alaska have declined along with cases, and are now less than a third of where they were during the peak in November and December. By Monday, there were 36 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including nine that were on ventilators. Another three patients were believed to have the virus.
Nationwide, new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been falling since January.
No new deaths in the state were reported Monday or over the weekend. 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.
Over 462,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. so far.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Monday, 109,187 — over 15% 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 9.1%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, 19% had received at least one dose of vaccine by Monday. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use for people aged 16 and older, and Moderna’s has been cleared for use in people 18 and older.
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 initially filled quickly. Seniors and other eligible health care workers can visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322 for assistance making an appointment.
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. A highly contagious variant of the virus reached Alaska last month.
Of the 89 cases announced Monday among Alaska residents, there were 17 in Anchorage plus two in Chugiak and six in Eagle River; one in Anchor Point; one in Soldotna; two in Fairbanks; 13 in Palmer; 23 in Wasilla; one in Willow; two in Ketchikan; and one in Dillingham.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were two in the Nome Census Area; one in the Northwest Arctic Borough; one in the Aleutians East Borough; 14 in the Bethel Census Area; one in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula area; and one in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were also seven cases among nonresidents in Alaska reported Monday, all in an unidentified region of the state.
The geographic breakdown for Saturday and Sunday numbers was not immediately available.
Just under half of the workers at an Aleutians Island seafood processing plant — most of them nonresidents — have tested positive for the virus since an outbreak began there in January.
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