Alaska on Tuesday reported five COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations and cases continued to rise statewide.
There were 459 cases of the virus reported in Alaska on Tuesday and at least 132 people hospitalized with COVID-19 around the state. That’s up from 123 hospitalizations reported Monday, 116 on Friday, and 110 reported last Wednesday.
The most confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations reported by the state at any time was 151 on Dec. 8.
The steep upward trend in hospitalizations continues to put intense pressure on hospitals both in Anchorage and statewide, which over the last few weeks have reported being understaffed and overburdened. That’s especially the case in intensive care units and emergency rooms, where the sickest patients often end up.
At Providence Alaska Medical Center, some patients this week had to wait up to five hours to be seen in the emergency room due to extremely limited beds and staffing in the facility, Dr. Dan Safranek, Providence’s ER director, said Tuesday.
Health officials say the latest surge is driven by the highly contagious delta variant that has spread far and wide, sickening younger, healthier, but mostly unvaccinated patients.
In Anchorage, where 80 COVID-19 patients were receiving care, just six ICU beds remained available as of Tuesday, according to the municipality’s hospital dashboard.
The five newly reported deaths were all recent, and involved a woman from Anchorage in her 20s, a woman from Sitka in her 40s, a woman from Anchorage in her 60s, and two women from Anchorage in their 70s.
A total of 400 Alaskans and eight nonresidents have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic reached the state last spring.
By Tuesday, 49.4% of all Alaskans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 44.5% of the entire population was considered fully vaccinated. Among only eligible Alaskans 12 and older, those percentages were higher: 59.3% had received one dose, and 53.4% had completed their vaccination series.
Of all the tests conducted over the past week, 6.79% were positive — a slight drop from last week. A positivity rate over 5% can point to higher transmission and not enough virus detection.
Anyone with even mild COVID-19 symptoms — plus anyone who is a close contact of someone who has tested positive — should get tested, regardless of vaccination status, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.