Alaska reported 337 new coronavirus infections and no new deaths related to COVID-19 between Saturday and Monday, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. The state no longer updates its coronavirus dashboard on weekends, and instead includes the weekend numbers in Monday’s report.
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.
No deaths were reported since 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 Monday, there were 27 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 Monday, 168,577 people — about 23% 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 17.7%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, 30% 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 and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines have been cleared for use in people 18 and older. At least 117,861 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.
Most recently, officials added 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, assist a senior in getting vaccinated, 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 323 cases identified in Alaska residents over the last three days, there were 119 cases in Anchorage plus six in Chugiak, 22 in Eagle River and one in Girdwood; 68 in Wasilla; 31 in Fairbanks plus eight in North Pole; 31 in Palmer; four in Delta Junction; four in Soldotna; three in Kotzebue; two in Bethel; two in Homer; two in Juneau; two in Unalaska; one in Big Lake; one in Cordova; one in Ester; one in Houston; one in Petersburg; one in Sitka; one in Utqiagvik; and one in Willow.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 not named to protect individuals’ privacy, there were three in the Copper River Census Area; two in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; one in the Bethel Census Area; one in the Kusilvak Census Area; one in the Mat-Su Borough; one in the North Slope Borough; and one in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area.
There were also 14 new nonresident cases: 11 in Anchorage, two in Wasilla, and one in Prudhoe Bay.
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.
Of all the tests conducted over the past week, 2.04% came back positive. Health officials have said that a test positivity rate above 5% can indicate high rates of community spread and not enough testing being done.
— Annie Berman