Alaska on Thursday reported 157 new coronavirus infections and three COVID-related deaths, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.
State data showed the three deaths were of residents of Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Bethel Census Area, though it was not immediately clear whether they had occurred recently. In total, 306 Alaskans and four nonresidents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the Alaska 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.
Alaska this month became the first state in the country to open up vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older who lives or works in the state. You can now visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322 to sign up for a vaccine appointment; new appointments are added regularly. 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.
By Thursday, 204,918 people — about 28% of Alaska’s population — had received at least their first vaccine shot, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard. That’s above the national average of 22% of the population. At least 141,464 people — about 19% of the state population — were considered fully vaccinated.
Although case counts and hospitalizations in Alaska remain far below what they were during the peak in November and December, the overall decline in cases has slowed in recent weeks, and several regions of the state are still in the highest alert category based on their current per capita rate of infection.
Health officials in particular have recently expressed concern about the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which currently has the highest case rate in the state, at 38.61 cases per 100,000 people — nearly four times the state’s “high alert” threshold.
Public health officials continue to encourage Alaskans to keep up with personal virus mitigation efforts like hand-washing, mask-wearing, social distancing and getting tested if symptomatic or exposed to someone with COVID-19.
By Thursday, there were 36 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, far below a peak in late 2020 but trending slightly up compared to recent weeks. Another three patients had test results pending.
Of the 152 cases identified among Alaska residents Thursday, there were 60 in Anchorage, plus five in Chugiak and two in Eagle River; one in Valdez; one in Anchor Point; three in Seward; one in Healy; 11 in Fairbanks plus six in North Pole and one in Salcha; three in Delta Junction; two in Tok; one in Big Lake; seven in Palmer; 19 in Wasilla; two in Willow; and one in Juneau.
Among smaller communities not named to protect individuals’ privacy, there were two in the Copper River Census Area; one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; four in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; one in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; one in the Prince of Wales and Hyder Census Area; one in the Aleutians East Borough; and 15 in the Bethel Census Area.
There were also five new nonresident cases identified: two in Anchorage, one in Fairbanks, and two in Unalaska.
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 statewide over the last week, 2.34% came back positive.
— Annie Berman