Alaska News

Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 186 new cases and no deaths reported Wednesday

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Alaska on Wednesday reported 186 new coronavirus infections and no new deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.

Wednesday’s 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 third of where they were during the peak in November and December. By Wednesday, there were 32 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including six who were on ventilators. Another two patients were 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 462,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. so far.

[State widens COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, bumping up all teachers and other groups including at-risk Alaskans over 50]

The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Wednesday, 114,117 — 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 9.9%.

Among Alaskans 16 and older, roughly 20% had received at least one dose of vaccine by Wednesday. 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.

At least 48,153 people have received both doses of the vaccine. 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 people prioritized to receive the vaccine. Alaskans older than 65 became eligible in early January, and the state further widened eligibility criteria this week. 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.

[Did 5 people really die from COVID-19 vaccines in Alaska? No, state officials say. None did.]

Of the 166 cases reported among Alaska residents on Wednesday, there were 46 in Anchorage, plus two in Chugiak, two in Eagle River and one in Girdwood; 29 in Wasilla; 18 in Palmer; 15 in Fairbanks; seven in Bethel; six in North Pole; three in Seward; three in Ketchikan; three in Unalaska; two in Soldotna; one in Kenai; one in Nikiski; one in Sterling; one in Salcha; one in Big Lake; one in Sutton-Alpine; one in Utqiagvik; and one in Petersburg.

Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were 12 resident cases in the Bethel Census Area; six in the Kusilvak Census Area; two in the combined Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula boroughs; and one in the Nome Census Area.

Twenty cases were identified among nonresidents: 13 in the Aleutians East Borough; three in Unalaska; two in Anchorage; and two in unidentified parts 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.

— Morgan Krakow

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