Alaska on Monday reported continued high COVID-19 case counts over the weekend and four deaths from the virus. Fairbanks Memorial Hospital reported a fifth death in a COVID-positive patient early Monday.
Alaska continues to report the nation’s highest number of cases per 100,000 residents in the previous seven days. State health officials say it’s possible cases are leveling off, though they’re waiting to see what this week brings.
The number of people hospitalized dropped slightly through the weekend.
The people who died from the virus were a man from the Northwest Arctic Borough in his 70s; an Anchorage man in his 50s; and two Anchorage women, one in her 60s and one in her 70s.
Alaska’s death rate per capita is among the lowest in the country since the pandemic began last year and in the bottom third of the nation for the past week, per 100,000 people. At least 574 Alaskans and 22 nonresidents have died from coronavirus infections.
The state’s report of the number of Alaskans hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped slightly from 186 Thursday to 184 as of Sunday, according to data reported Monday. Hospitalizations tend to lag a week or two behind new infections.
State health officials say some hospitals at times still may be unable to provide care for everyone who needs it, including people without COVID-19, due to a combination of understaffing and a surge in COVID-19 patients who require additional care, ICU beds, and ventilators and dialysis machines.
Twenty health care facilities around the state are operating under crisis standards of care, though not all have enacted crisis mode and any decisions to prioritize treatment are fluid and made on a daily basis.
The tally of daily cases appears to have at least leveled off and might be decreasing, according to a weekly state health department update published late last week. But “intense community transmission” continues, and that’s causing significant illness, death and health-care demand.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 6,083 cases in the week ending Sunday and 6,085 the week before.
Alaska is averaging about 800 new infections reported daily. Over the three days from Friday to Sunday, the state reported 2,752 resident cases: 792 Sunday, 1,059 Saturday, and 901 Friday. Another 40 cases were reported in out-of-state residents who tested positive here over that three-day period.
Hospital leaders say vaccination is the best way to prevent severe illness and death from the virus. Roughly 40% of all eligible Alaskans are not fully vaccinated. Almost 64% of eligible Alaskans had received at least one dose of vaccine as of Monday.
Out of 117 COVID-positive patients at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital in September, 94 were not fully vaccinated, according to data recently released in conjunction with the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association. Sixteen out of 18 ICU patients with the virus were not fully vaccinated and 17 out of 21 deaths.
Some vaccine skeptics, including Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, say their natural immunity from a prior COVID-19 case protects them enough that they don’t need the shot.
In Alaskans who’d already had COVID-19 before, the chance of getting it again in July and August was 24% higher for unvaccinated residents compared to fully vaccinated residents, according to a monthly report the state released last week. The report also showed vaccine breakthrough cases were on the rise in August, partly due to waning immunity over time.
Testing sites in Anchorage and Mat-Su were experiencing heavy volumes over the weekend and into this week. A popular municipal testing site at Loussac Library had a long line Saturday and more than a dozen cars in line an hour before it opened Monday.
The statewide seven-day average test positivity rate — the number of positive results out of total tests performed — was 10.65% as of Monday. Anything over 5% indicates high transmission and inadequate testing, authorities say.