Alaska on Thursday reported 145 new coronavirus infections and no new deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The latest case count is part of a trend of more than a month of steadily declining cases. Alaska saw a surge of infections in November and early December that strained hospital capacity before leveling off, though counts are still higher than they were for most of last spring and early summer.
Hospitalizations in Alaska have declined along with cases, and are now less than a quarter of where they were during the peak in November and December. By Thursday, there were 32 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including six who were on ventilators. Another patient was suspected of having the virus.
Nationwide, new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been falling since January.
In total, 278 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 466,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. so far.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Thursday, 116,228 people — nearly 16% 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 10.2%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, roughly 20% had received at least one dose of vaccine by Thursday. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use for people ages 16 and older, and Moderna’s has been cleared for use by people 18 and older.
Health care workers and nursing home staff and residents were the first people prioritized to receive the vaccine. Alaskans older than 65 became eligible in early January, and the state further widened eligibility criteria this week to include educators of all ages and others, including high-risk Alaskans 50 and older with at least one high-risk medical condition, and those living and working in congregate settings like shelters and prisons.
Those who are eligible 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 in December.
Of the 134 cases reported among Alaska residents on Thursday, there were 62 in Anchorage plus one in Chugiak and seven in Eagle River; 15 in Wasilla; 13 in Palmer; 10 in Fairbanks; two in Juneau; two in Ketchikan; two in Bethel; one in Cordova; one in Homer; one in North Pole; one in Salcha; one in Haines; one in Petersburg; and one in Hooper Bay.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were seven in the Kusilvak Census Area; four in the Bethel Census Area; one in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; and one in the Northwest Arctic Borough.
Eleven cases were identified among nonresidents: two in Fairbanks, three in the Aleutians East Borough and six in Unalaska.
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 all the tests completed over the last week, 2.34% came back positive.
— Annie Berman