Alaska on Friday reported 144 new coronavirus infections and two deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
State data showed that the deaths were of an Anchorage and a Wasilla resident. In total, 280 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 473,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. so far.
The latest case count is part of a trend of nearly two months 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 what they were during the peak in November and December. By Friday, there were 31 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including five who were on ventilators. Another four patients were suspected of having the virus.
Nationwide, new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been falling since January.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Friday, 120,396 people — over 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 10.5%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, roughly 21% 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.
Beginning Thursday, thousands more Alaskans became eligible to receive vaccine, including educators, people 50 and older with a high-risk medical condition, front-line essential workers 50 and older and people living or working in congregate settings like shelters and prisons.
Those eligible to receive the vaccine can visit covidvax.alaska.gov, or anchoragecovidvaccine.org, or call 907-646-3322 — the number is staffed 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekends — to sign up and to confirm eligibility.
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 Friday, there were 46 in Anchorage, plus four in Eagle River and two in Girdwood; five in Kenai; two in Nikiski; one in Seward; one in Soldotna; five in Fairbanks plus three in North Pole; 12 in Palmer; 21 in Wasilla; one in Utqiagvik; three in Juneau; one in Skagway; four in Unalaska; and three in Dillingham.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were four in the Copper River Census Area; four in the Yukon Koyukuk Census Area; one in the Aleutians East Borough; two in the Bethel Census Area; five in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula region; and four in the Kusilvak Census Area.
Ten cases were identified among nonresidents: one in Fairbanks, one in Wasilla, four in the Aleutians East Borough, one in Unalaska, one in Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula region, and two 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.
Note: the state no longer updates the coronavirus dashboard over the weekend, and instead will include weekend numbers in Monday’s report.
— Annie Berman