Alaska News

Alaska reports 536 COVID-19 cases, no new deaths as high levels of virus-related hospitalizations continue

Alaska reported 536 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths Friday as virus-related hospitalizations stayed near record levels.

The state reported 511 new cases in residents and 25 in nonresidents, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services dashboard.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus stayed in the 140s on Friday, according to the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association. The state reported 142 COVID-positive patients for Thursday, with 27 on ventilators. There were 151 people hospitalized with the virus at the highest count, over the winter.

Hospitals say they are operating at unsustainable levels due to the combination of busy summer admissions, staff shortages and the surge in high-needs COVID-19 patients. Providers report hourslong ER waits, sporadic cancellations of elective procedures and ICU patients competing for beds. They urge eligible Alaskans to get vaccinated to curtail virus-related hospital visits.

There were seven ICU beds available in Anchorage, as reported by a municipal dashboard Friday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and administration officials on Thursday said they were working to speed the licensing process for health care workers, seeking federal contracts for more workers, and taking other steps to increase the number of people who can treat COVID-19 patients.

Dunleavy and other officials, in a news conference streamed on Facebook, said vaccination remains the best solution to the ongoing crisis. But the governor stopped a step short of urging vaccinations, instead saying Alaskans should talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated “if that’s what they want to do.”


It’s possible that if Alaska’s COVID-19 emergency declaration remained active there could be less confusion over “what is and isn’t allowed” to boost health-care staffing now, said Jared Kosin, president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.

Dunleavy in mid-February allowed the declaration to expire, saying he lacked the authority for continual 30-day extensions. The Alaska Legislature failed to renew it.

Hospitals have a long list of staffing needs — nurses, certified nurse assistants, and medical technicians — that require a certain level of training, Kosin said.

“We’re still waiting to see what is and what is not going to happen,” he said.

This week, the board of directors at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau unanimously approved a requirement that all staff be vaccinated against COVID-19, with individuals able to request an exemption for medical or religious reasons. The move puts Bartlett among the ranks of other hospitals and tribal health organizations in Alaska — including Providence, Southcentral Foundation and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium — requiring staff vaccinations.

Alaska, which in January held the top spot in the nation for per capita vaccination, is now 33rd among states. The state on Friday reported that 60.4% of Alaskans 12 and over had received at least one dose of vaccine and 54.6% were fully vaccinated.

The state’s seven-day average test positivity rate was 7.36%.