Alaska reported 112 coronavirus infections Friday and no new deaths related to COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The latest count was part of a trend in Alaska of declining infections over the last two months. Hospitalizations are now less than a quarter of what they were during a peak in November and December that strained hospital capacity.
By Friday, there were 38 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including five on ventilators. Another five patients were believed to be infected with the virus.
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 Friday, 151,602 people — about 21% 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 13.9%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, about 27% 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 98,269 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. This week, officials said people who help Alaskans 65 and older get a vaccination are now eligible to get a vaccine.
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. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 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 U.K. variant of the virus reached Alaska in December, while a separate variant that originated from Brazil was found in the state this month.
Of the 102 cases reported among Alaska residents on Friday, there were 34 in Anchorage, plus four in Eagle River and one in Girdwood; one in Cordova; one in Valdez; two in Kenai; one in Soldotna; one in Healy; nine in Fairbanks; one in North Pole; two in Tok; one in Houston; 11 in Palmer; 27 in Wasilla; one in Nome; one in Juneau; and one in Bethel.
In communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there was one in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; one in the Nome Census Area; and one in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were also 10 nonresident cases including one in Anchorage, one in Wasilla, three in the Aleutians East Borough, one in the Aleutians Census Area, one in Unalaska, and three 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 its coronavirus dashboard on the weekends, and instead includes that data in Monday’s report.
— Annie Berman