Alaska on Thursday reported 137 new coronavirus infections and no new deaths related to COVID-19, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.
Daily case counts and hospitalizations remain far below what they were during a peak in November and December that strained hospital capacity. However, the overall rate of decline in cases has recently plateaued.
In total, 299 Alaskans and four 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.
By Thursday, there were 24 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state. Another eight patients had test results pending.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Thursday, 158,680 people — about 22% of Alaska’s total population — had received at least their first vaccine shot, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard. That’s above the national average of 15.9%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, 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 106,006 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. And on Wednesday, the state announced that essential workers and people with potentially high risk health conditions age 16 and older as well as people who live in communities that lack water or sewer systems, live in multigenerational homes, or are 55 and older are also eligible for the 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 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 in Brazil was found in the state last month. Scientists in Alaska last week announced the discovery of 10 cases of a new coronavirus strain first discovered in California.
Of the 126 cases identified in Alaska residents, there were 35 in Anchorage plus two in Chugiak and seven in Eagle River; four in Cordova; one in Homer; one in Kenai; two in Soldotna; 13 in Fairbanks plus four in North Pole; one in Salcha; one in Delta Junction; one in Big Lake; one in Houston; 12 in Palmer; 19 in Wasilla; one in Nome; one in Juneau; two in Ketchikan; three in Petersburg; one in Unalaska; and three in Dillingham.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 not named to protect individuals’ privacy, there were two in the Copper River Census Area; one in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; one in the Denali Borough; one in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; three in the Matanuska Borough; one in the Nome Census Area; and two in the Bethel Census Area.
There were also 11 new nonresident cases: three in Anchorage, one in Delta Junction, six in Unalaska, and one 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.
— Annie Berman