Alaska reported 58 new coronavirus infections and no deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The newest case count is part of a trend in Alaska of declining infections over the last two months, following a peak in November and early December that strained hospital capacity. Hospitalizations in Alaska are now less than a quarter of what they were during the peak in November and December.
By Tuesday, there were 35 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including five who were on ventilators. Another three patients were believed to have the virus.
No new coronavirus-related deaths were reported on Tuesday. In total, 287 Alaskans and three 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.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Tuesday, 144,419 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 13.3%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, 26% 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. At least 89,147 people had 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 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, most 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 56 cases reported among Alaska residents on Tuesday, there were 18 in Anchorage plus one in Eagle River; one in Homer; three in Kenai; one in Sterling; one in Kodiak; four in Fairbanks; one in North Pole; four in Palmer; 13 in Wasilla; one in Juneau; four in Petersburg; one in Sitka; one in Unalaska; and two in Dillingham.
Two cases were also identified among nonresidents 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.