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Alaska News

Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 140 cases reported Saturday through Monday; 1 recent death and 10 deaths identified through certificate review

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: May 17
  • Published May 17
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Alaska reported 140 coronavirus infections and 11 deaths linked to COVID-19 between Saturday and Monday, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. The state no longer updates its coronavirus dashboard over the weekend, and instead includes those numbers in Monday’s report.

Ten of the newly reported deaths were confirmed through a standard death certificate review completed over several months, officials said Monday. The one recent death was of a man from Fairbanks in his 70s, who died in May.

Reviewing death certificates to confirm cause of death is a lengthy process that involves at least a monthlong delay between when a death occurs and when it’s reported by the state. 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 have said.

The deaths reported Monday included: two people from Anchorage, one from Kodiak, one from Fairbanks, one from North Pole, one from Palmer, four from Wasilla and one from the Bethel Census Area.

In total, 358 Alaskans and six nonresidents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state last spring. Alaska’s death rate per capita remains among the lowest in the country, though the state’s size, health care system and other factors complicate national comparisons.

Alaska’s average daily case counts are now trending down significantly statewide, though a few regions in the state are still in the highest alert category based on their current per capita rate of infection.

For the first time since July, Anchorage last week moved from high to intermediate alert status based on falling case rates in the municipality.

The CDC last week updated its guidance to say that fully vaccinated people can largely stop wearing masks outdoors and indoors, except in crowded settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. Health officials continue to encourage Alaskans to follow local mandates and business-specific rules, and to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent further spread.

The Anchorage Assembly on Friday revoked the city’s mask mandate, effective immediately. A statement from the Anchorage School District on Sunday, however, said that district would continue to require masks indoors for both students and staff through this week, the end of the school year. School officials hadn’t yet decided which policies to implement for the upcoming summer sessions.

Last week, state health officials also announced that anyone 12 and older who lives or works in Alaska can now receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Previously, only those 16 and older in Alaska had been eligible for the vaccine.

Alaskans can 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 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends. Only Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for children as young as 12; the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved only for those 18 and older.

By Monday, 314,000 people — about 52.9% of Alaskans age 16 and older — had received at least their first dose. At least 274,802 people — 47.2% of Alaskans 16 and older — were considered fully vaccinated, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard.

By Monday, there were 25 people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, far below a peak in late 2020.

Of the 136 cases reported over the weekend among Alaska residents, there were 34 in Anchorage plus seven in Eagle River and one in Chugiak; 17 in Ketchikan; 14 in Fairbanks plus four in North Pole; 11 in Wasilla; five in Metlakatla; three in Palmer; three in Sitka; two in Big Lake; two in Delta Junction; and one each in Juneau, Kodiak, Nome, Soldotna and Tok.

In smaller communities that are not named to protect residents’ privacy, there 19 in the Chugach Census Area, three in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and one each in Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula and the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area.

Four new nonresident cases were also identified: one in Anchorage, one at Prudhoe Bay, and two in unidentified regions 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

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