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Alaska News

Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 385 cases and 10 deaths — one of them recent — reported since Friday

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: March 1
  • Published March 1
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Alaska reported 385 coronavirus infections Saturday through Monday and 10 new deaths related to COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.

All but one of those deaths were identified during a standard death certificate review that was completed over the past few months, officials said on Monday. The state no longer updates its coronavirus dashboard on the weekends, and instead includes that data in Monday’s report.

While state health officials could not confirm exactly when the deaths occurred, reviewing death certificates to confirm cause of death is a lengthy process that involves at least a month-long delay between when a death occurs and when it’s reported by the state.

It takes about nine days for a death to be registered by the state, and another one to three weeks for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to code and classify those deaths. CDC specialists rely on cause of death noted by a medical professional to certify each death.

This reporting process has been in place for decades and is considered the most accurate way COVID-19 deaths are tracked, health officials said.

The one recent death reported Monday was of a man from Anchorage who was in his 70s.

The nine deaths identified during the certificate review included: a man from a small community in the Northwest Arctic Borough in his 70s, a man from Fairbanks in his 80s, a woman from Fairbanks in her 70s, a woman from North Pole in her 70s, a woman from a small community in the Bethel Census Area in her 70s, a woman from Anchorage in her 80s, a man from Anchorage in his 70s, a woman from Anchorage in her 40s and a woman from Wasilla in her 80s.

In total, 297 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 latest three-day count continues a trend in Alaska of declining infections over the last three months. Hospitalizations are now far below what they were during a peak in November and December that strained hospital capacity.

By Monday, there were 22 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including five on ventilators. Another three patients were believed to be infected with the virus.

Nationwide, new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been falling since January.

By Monday, more than 511,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus had been reported in the U.S.

The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Monday, 155,951 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 15%.

Among Alaskans 16 and older, nearly 28% 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 103,668 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 in February 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.

Last 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.

In Anchorage, Alaskans 40 and older can now get vaccinated through Southcentral Foundation, the health care organization announced Monday.

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 last month. Scientists in Alaska on Wednesday announced the discovery of 10 cases of a new coronavirus strain first discovered in California.

Of the 349 cases identified in Alaska residents, there were 95 in Anchorage plus six in Eagle River and five in Girdwood; 83 in Wasilla; 36 in Palmer; 30 in Fairbanks plus four in North Pole; 27 in Petersburg; nine in Chugiak; seven in Juneau; four in Cordova; four in Kenai; four in Soldotna; four in Sutton-Alpine; three in Delta Junction; three in Homer; two in Tok; two in Unalaska; one in Anchor Point; one in Big Lake; one in Haines; one in Healy; one in Houston; one in Kodiak; one in Nikiski; one in Sitka; and one in Wrangell.

Among communities smaller than 1,000 not named to protect their privacy, there were six in the Bethel Census Area, four in the Kusilvak Census Area, one in the Nome Census Area; and one in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area.

There were also 36 new nonresident cases: eight in Unalaska, five in Kodiak, five in Prudhoe Bay, two in Anchorage, three in Delta Junction, two in Palmer, one in Cordova, one in Ketchikan, one in Wasilla, and five in the North Slope.

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.

The average percentage of daily positive tests over the last week was 2.16%.

— Annie Berman

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