Alaska on Friday reported 149 new coronavirus infections and two 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. However, the overall rate of decline in cases has recently plateaued.
The virus-related deaths of two Anchorage residents were reported Friday. In total, 301 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 Friday, there were 28 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, far below the peak in late 2020. Another five patients had test results pending.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Friday, 163,906 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 16.3%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, 29% 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 111,990 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. In Anchorage, Alaskans 40 and older can also get vaccinated through Southcentral Foundation.
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 in Brazil was found in the state last month. Scientists in Alaska last month announced the discovery of 10 cases of a new coronavirus strain first discovered in California.
Of the 138 cases identified in Alaska residents, there were 39 in Anchorage plus four in Chugiak and seven in Eagle River; one in Cordova; four in Valdez; three in Anchor Point; one in Kenai; one in Soldotna; one in Sterling; one in Kodiak; nine in Fairbanks plus four in North Pole; three in Delta Junction; 18 in Palmer; 22 in Wasilla; one in Utqiagvik; four in Juneau; one in Ketchikan; five in Petersburg; one in Sitka; and one in Bethel.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 not named to protect individuals’ privacy, there was one in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; one in the Prince of Wales and Hyder Census Area; and four in the Bethel Census Area.
There were also 11 new nonresident cases: two in Anchorage, two in Fairbanks, one in a smaller community in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; two in the North Slope Borough; one in Juneau; two 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.
Note: the state no longer updates its coronavirus dashboard on weekends, and will instead include the weekend numbers in Monday’s report.
— Annie Berman