Alaska News

Alaska reports 6 deaths, 877 cases Friday as COVID-19 hospitalizations remain near record level

Alaska on Friday reported six deaths and 877 new COVID-19 cases as virus-related hospitalizations hovered in record territory.

The latest count is part of what health officials this week have described as a potential plateau in new cases, though officials say that there’s not enough evidence to say cases have begun declining, and that current counts are still extremely elevated.

Alaska’s case rate per 100,000 over the last week remains the highest in the nation, according to CDC data.

The newly reported deaths involved five residents, including an Anchorage man in his 50s, an Anchorage man in his 70s, an Anchorage man in his 80s or older, a woman from the Bethel Census Area in her 80s or older and a Fairbanks woman in her 70s. The state also reported another nonresident death involving a woman in her 50s who was diagnosed in Wasilla.

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Fairbanks Memorial Hospital separately reported two COVID-19 deaths involving patients there. It wasn’t immediately clear whether those deaths were reflected in the state’s data.

In total, 673 resident deaths tied to the virus and 25 nonresident deaths have reported in Alaska since January 2020.

By Friday, there were 225 people hospitalized with the virus around Alaska — just below a new record of 235 set Thursday. Before this week, the previous hospitalizations record was 223 on Sept. 25.

Administrators say COVID-19 hospitalizations will likely remain at high levels across much of the state for at least the next few weeks. Hospitalizations are considered a lagging indicator, which means that declines in cases will take a few weeks to be reflected in hospitals.

“I just hope we all realize that we’re not out of this thing yet,” Jared Kosin, president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, said Friday.

In Mat-Su, nearly half of all hospital patients were sickened with COVID-19, and zero ICU beds remained available, state data showed. In the Fairbanks North Star Borough, a third of all hospital patients had COVID-19, and three ICU beds remained open.

After months of prolonged stress on the state’s health care system, it’s easy to become desensitized to these kinds of numbers, Kosin said.

But “to manage a hospital floor with that level of admissions that otherwise would not be there at that volume is unprecedented,” he said. “Until we can clear these admissions out, and really stop seeing sustained volumes at this levels, our hospital system in many respects is compromised.”

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Crisis standards of care are active at 20 health care facilities across the state, and Kosin said challenges persist around full ICUs, scarce resources and the occasional rationing of care. A boost from state-contracted Outside health care workers has helped, but it has not solved the crisis inside hospitals, Kosin said.

“Everybody is under pressure right now,” he said.

Just under 65% of Alaskans 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the last week, 9.89% of all COVID-19 tests came back positive.