Alaska News

Kodiak sees worst COVID-19 outbreak since November as Alaska reports 338 more cases statewide

A recent COVID-19 outbreak in Kodiak is worrying local officials as the state’s latest rise in cases continued Friday across the state.

“We’re seeing a real surge every day,” said Mike Tvenge, Kodiak’s city manager, who also serves as the island’s emergency services director.

Like other places in Alaska now experiencing outbreaks, the latest spike escalated relatively quickly.

“In early July, we were only reporting a couple cases a week. In the first week of June, we only had two active cases,” Tvenge said.

Kodiak Island Borough now has 143 active cases — the highest reported since a surge last November, Tvenge said.

On Thursday and again on Friday, the borough reported 14 new cases, according to reports from Kodiak’s emergency operations center. On Wednesday, there were 27.

[The US is allowing extra COVID vaccine doses for people with weakened immune systems. Here’s what to know.]

“We’re not pleased to see these high numbers of cases,” Tvenge added. “We did so well this summer, and cases were down. But I think we let our guard down, and then along came the delta variant.”

Alaska on Friday reported 338 new virus cases and no related deaths statewide, while both COVID-19 hospitalizations and non-COVID-19-related hospitalizations remained high.

Alaska’s latest surge has been driven almost entirely by the delta coronavirus variant — which made up about 97% of recently sequenced cases, according to a state report.

Epidemiologists say the variant is about twice as contagious as the original strain which means it can spread more quickly — even among people who are vaccinated.

In Kodiak, Tvenge said that so far, most of the city’s recent cases have been traced back to small gatherings of families and friends — which he said was somewhat less worrisome than harder-to-trace cases that are often indicative of broader community transmission.

Still, the community’s risk level was raised to “yellow” this week in response to rising cases, and Kodiak residents were being encouraged to wear masks as an added precaution. Teachers and students will be required to wear masks as school starts, he added.

Across the state, by late Thursday, there were 116 COVID-positive people sick enough to require hospitalization — including nine on ventilators, according to the state health department. One of those patients was in Kodiak.

A week ago, just around 100 people were hospitalized statewide, indicating a continued upward trajectory.

[COVID-19 in Alaska prisons forces cutoff of visitation and some services]

During a Thursday afternoon briefing held by the Anchorage Office of Emergency Management, representatives from the municipality’s major hospitals addressed hospital capacity. Most described high patient volumes, limited capacity in their facilities and staffing challenges.

“It’s just such a high-pressure situation right now,” said Jared Kosin, president of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, calling Anchorage hospitals “packed” but still managing.

By Friday, 49% of all Alaskans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 44% of the entire population was considered fully vaccinated. Among only eligible Alaskans 12 and older, those percentages were higher: 59% had received one dose, and 53% had completed their vaccination series.

The state’s test positivity rate remained high on Friday, too. Of all the tests conducted over the past week, 7.01% were positive.

A new testing site in Anchorage at the Alaska Airlines Center opened Wednesday in response to an increased demand for testing in the municipality. That site will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. Anchorage residents can visit to find a free testing site near them.

In Alaska, 395 residents and eight nonresidents have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic reached the state last spring.