Alaska on Friday reported 839 cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths tied to the virus, according to state data.
By the end of this week, Alaska’s daily COVID-19 case counts appeared to be slightly leveling off from prior weeks of steady case increases. However, case counts remain far above last winter’s peak, and on Friday, the number of COVID-positive patients hospitalized rose slightly while the state’s percentage of positive tests hit an all-time high.
State health officials said this week that they were cautiously optimistic about the latest virus data trends, but there’s still widespread virus transmission in the state and the pandemic is far from over.
By Friday, Alaska’s average test positivity rate over the last week had reached a record high of 10.12%. That means about 1 in 10 COVID-19 tests performed came back positive. Epidemiologists say a rate above 5% can indicate widespread transmission in the community and a need for more testing.
Meanwhile, officials in Anchorage said this week that virus testing efforts are now being scaled back — including reducing testing site hours and changing guidance on who should get tested — as the result of a dramatic rise in the number of tests being sought and a lack of funds to pay for them. Anchorage’s COVID-19 surge swelled through late summer, bringing the municipality’s case counts to pandemic highs as more people were being tested.
Alaska’s case rate over the last week is also still the highest in the nation — 779 cases per 100,000 residents — and well above the second-worst state, Montana, which has a rate of 593 cases per 100,000, according to the CDC.
By Friday, there were 186 people hospitalized with the virus around the state, including 30 people on ventilators. Hospitals say that number doesn’t always include people past their infectious period who still need hospital care.
Alaska’s hospitals continue to report being overburdened and understaffed.
Twenty health care facilities across Alaska have activated crisis standards of care, giving them the option to prioritize care for patients most likely to survive if scarce resources make that decision necessary.
In practice, that means hospitals around the state are evaluating what they have the capacity to do each day and, in some cases, are postponing some “elective,” but still urgent, procedures.
[Elective procedures become a flashpoint in the debate over Anchorage’s hospital capacity]
Of the 839 cases reported by the state Friday, 825 involved residents and 14 involved nonresidents.
The newly reported deaths involved a Fairbanks woman in her 80s and a nonresident man in his 50s who tested positive in Anchorage. In total, 570 Alaskans and 22 nonresidents in the state have died with the virus. Alaska is 29th in the nation for its 7-day per capita death rate. Its death rate since the start of the pandemic is the third lowest.
By Friday, 63.7% of Alaskans 12 and older had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
In August, just 19% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and a third of all cases involved people who were vaccinated, according to a state report published this week.