Alaska News

Alaska reports 427 cases and 2 deaths Wednesday as hospitalizations hold steady

Alaska on Wednesday reported 427 new cases of COVID-19 as part of a continued downward trend in case numbers as virus-related hospitalizations held steady.

The state now ranks seventh nationally for its COVID-19 case rate over the past week, at 375 per 100,000 people. Through most of September and October, Alaska had seen the highest case rate per capita of any state.

Statewide, about 60% of Alaskans ages 5 and older have received their first dose of the vaccine while 54% are considered fully vaccinated.

Though cases have fallen from recent peaks, Alaska’s state epidemiologist said Wednesday that boosting the state’s vaccination rate would be key to preventing future surges in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“We really want to do whatever we can to get as many people vaccinated so that we don’t see a rebound here in Alaska,” Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, said during a call with reporters and members of the public.

Alaska currently ranks 34th in the country among all states and Washington D.C. for its per capita vaccination rate, according to CDC data compiled by The New York Times.

“It’s great that our cases are going down,” McLaughlin said. “But as we’ve seen in so many other countries across the planet, that’s not an indication of what’s going to be happening a month from now.”

McLaughlin encouraged Alaskans who are now eligible for booster shots to consider getting those as soon as possible.

“Our way out of this — certainly the long-term strategy — is to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” he said.

[Biden administration to announce purchase of 10 million courses of Pfizer anti-covid pill]

Those currently eligible for booster shots include anyone who initially received Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines at least six months ago and are either 65 or older or are at high risk of COVID-19 because of their health, job or living conditions. All Johnson and Johnson vaccine recipients are eligible for boosters as soon as two months after their initial single dose.

The Food and Drug Administration could authorize broader use of Pfizer vaccine booster shots for all adults as soon as Thursday.

The recent and steady drop in cases has translated to some relief at the state’s hospitals, where 139 people were hospitalized with the virus by Wednesday, including 18 people on ventilators.

Those numbers don’t include some people who are recovering from the disease and need continued care, often several weeks after they are admitted.

Alaska’s hospitals were stretched thin for weeks amid strain from many patients with COVID-19 needing care. As the situation worsened, the state contracted several hundred out-of-state health care workers and some hospitals activated crisis standards of care to deal with demand.

The state on Wednesday reported two recent deaths related to COVID-19; a man from Wasilla in his 40s, and a woman from Fairbanks in her 60s. In total, the virus-related deaths of 812 Alaskans and 30 nonresidents have been recorded since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.