Alaska on Friday reported 210 new coronavirus infections, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.
No deaths were reported. In total, 286 Alaskans 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. More than 489,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. so far.
Coronavirus cases in Alaska have been steadily declining over the last few months after a surge of infections in November and early December that strained hospital capacity.
Hospitalizations in Alaska are now less than a quarter of what they were during November and December. By Friday, there were 33 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including four on ventilators. Another patient was suspected of having the virus.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Friday, 137,124 people — nearly 19% of Alaska’s 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 12.4%. Among Alaskans age 16 and older, 24% had received at least one dose of vaccine by Friday. 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 last week to include 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 call 907-646-3322 to sign up and to confirm eligibility. The phone line is staffed 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekends.
Despite the lower case numbers, 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 185 cases reported among Alaska residents on Friday, there were 59 in Anchorage plus one in Chugiak and five in Eagle River; two in Kenai; one in Soldotna; one in Kodiak; 18 in Fairbanks plus one in North Pole; one in Big Lake; 11 in Palmer; one in Sutton-Alpine; 38 in Wasilla; two in Utqiagvik; six in Juneau; 15 in Ketchikan; one in Petersburg; two in Sitka; one in Wrangell; one in Unalaska; and one in Dillingham.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were three in the Copper River Census Area; one in the southern Kenai Peninsula Borough; three in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in Yakutat plus Hoonah Angoon region; and nine in the Bethel Census Area;
Twenty-five cases were also identified among nonresidents: one in Anchorage, one in Fairbanks, one in Juneau, and 22 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 conducted over the last seven days, an average of 2.27% came back positive.
— Annie Berman
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