Alaska reported 346 new coronavirus infections and one death related to COVID-19 Saturday through Monday, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The department no longer updates its coronavirus dashboard on the weekend or on holidays. Monday’s update includes cases that would’ve been reported over the weekend.
The coronavirus-related death of a woman from Anchorage who was in her 70s was reported over the weekend. In total, 287 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.
Case counts in Alaska have been steadily declining over the last two months, following a peak in November and early December that strained hospital capacity before leveling off. Hospitalizations in Alaska are now less than a quarter of what they were during the peak in November and December.
By Monday, there were 35 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including five who were on ventilators. Another four patients were believed to have the virus.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Monday, 142,531 people — nearly 20% 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 13.1%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, just over 25% had received at least one dose of vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use for people ages 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. Alaskans older than 65 became eligible in early January, and the state further widened eligibility criteria this month 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, all but four regions in Alaska are 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 311 cases reported among Alaska residents on Monday, there were 74 in Anchorage, plus seven in Eagle River, four in Chugiak, and three in Girdwood; 65 in Wasilla; 32 in Fairbanks plus 11 in North Pole; 22 in Palmer; 18 in Juneau; seven in Ketchikan; seven in Petersburg; four in Bethel; three in Dillingham; three in Soldotna; two in Cordova; two in Kenai; two in Sitka; one in Big Lake; one in Homer; one in Hooper Bay; one in Seward; one in Utqiagvik; and one in Wrangell.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were 16 cases reported in the Bethel Census Area; seven in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; six in the Kusilvak Census Area; three in the Denali Borough; two in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; two in the Northwest Arctic Borough; one in the Copper River Census Area; one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; and one in the Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon region.
Thirty-five cases were also identified among nonresidents: 24 in Unalaska, three in the Aleutians East Borough; one in Anchorage, two Fairbanks, one in Prudhoe Bay, 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.
Of all the tests conducted over the past week, 2.08% came back positive. Officials have said that a positivity rate above 5% indicates high rates of community spread and not enough testing.