Alaska on Tuesday reported 307 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths, while virus-related hospitalizations remained relatively unchanged from the previous week, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services dashboard.
By Tuesday, there were 98 people hospitalized with the virus in Alaska, including 19 who were on ventilators. That total is up just slightly from last Monday, when there were 96 people with COVID-19 who were sick enough to require hospitalization.
Still, the head of the state’s hospital association continued to express worry about Alaska’s current COVID-19 outlook, and said Tuesday that it is too soon to tell whether the recent leveling-off will continue.
“Every day, I’m reassured when there has not been a significant increase” in hospitalizations, said Jared Kosin, president of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association. “But this tends to be a longer-term trend game. And I don’t think anyone knows yet if we’re at the ceiling, or near the ceiling, or when we’ll get there.”
Last winter, the number of virus-related hospitalizations hovered between 150 and 160. As recently as early July, hospitalizations were less than a quarter of what they are now.
Alaska’s current hospitalization numbers are considered high for a state with a limited health care infrastructure and hospitals that are already close to capacity during the summer, Kosin said.
“Our facilities continue to be really busy,” Kosin said. “And the statement is still true that there’s less room and less staff as we continue to experience this current COVID event, and watch it evolve. We are in a far more precarious situation than before in terms of just how busy we are,” he said.
The new deaths reported Tuesday were both recent, and involved a woman from Anchorage in her 70s and a man from Anchorage in his 60s. In total, 384 Alaskans and seven nonresidents have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic reached the state last spring.
Alaska’s trend of increasing daily case counts continued Tuesday, and all regions of the state remained at a high alert level, shown as red on maps. The state classifies high alert as a two-week average of more than 10 cases per 100,000 people. It suggests widespread community transmission, with many undetected cases and frequent outbreaks.
The state’s test positivity rate continued to rise by Tuesday, too. Of all the tests conducted over the past week, 6.16% were positive. Epidemiologists have said a positivity rate over 5% is a cause for concern, because it points to higher transmission and not enough virus detection.
In Anchorage, city officials said they were adding an extra lane to testing sites at Loussac Library and Changepoint Church due to increased demand for testing following a recent rise in cases.
Health officials continue to encourage Alaskans to get vaccinated, calling the vaccine the best tool the state has to address rising cases and hospitalizations caused by the virus. By Tuesday, 48% of all Alaskans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 44% of the population was considered fully vaccinated.
The state health department said last week that even fully vaccinated Alaskans in communities with high COVID-19 transmission should consider masking up again in public, indoor spaces. That recommendation was in line with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
Of the 283 cases reported Tuesday in Alaska residents, there were 112 in Anchorage, 20 in Eagle River, 14 in Homer, 13 in Kodiak, 11 in Bethel, 11 in Fairbanks, 11 in Sitka, nine in Anchor Point, seven in Kotzebue, seven in Soldotna, seven in Wasilla, five in Kenai, four in Ketchikan, four in North Pole, four in Palmer, three in Juneau, two in Craig, two in Utqiaġvik, two in Valdez, and one each in Chugiak, Fritz Creek, Metlakatla, Nikiski, Nome and Petersburg.
Among smaller communities, there were nine in the Bethel Census Area, seven in the Kusilvak Census Area, three in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, three in the Northwest Arctic Borough, two in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, and one each in Aleutians East Borough, Copper River Census Area, the southern Kenai Peninsula Borough, Nome Census Area and the Prince Of Wales-Hyder Census Area.
There were also 24 new nonresident cases identified: four in Homer, three in a smaller community or communities in the Denali Borough, three in Juneau, three in Soldotna, two in Anchorage, two in Seward, two in Sitka, one in Fairbanks, one in Kodiak, one in the Northwest Arctic Borough, one in Unalaska and one in the Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon region.