Alaska on Tuesday reported two new deaths and 183 new cases of COVID-19 as part of a continuing decline in transmission around the state as officials worldwide wait to learn more about the new omicron variant.
In the state, hospitalizations have also fallen in recent weeks: There were 82 people hospitalized with the virus by Tuesday — well below a peak of over 200 recorded earlier this fall. Of the people currently hospitalized statewide, roughly 8.7% have active COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, state health officials said this week they are monitoring for the new variant of the coronavirus that’s sparked concern worldwide due in part to its many mutations. The new variant has not yet been detected anywhere in the United States, including Alaska.
The new variant was classified as a “variant of concern,” by the World Health Organization late last week. Much about the new variant is unknown — it’s not clear how contagious it is, whether it causes more severe illness, or how well it can evade vaccines.
In a statement, the White House said Sunday it will likely take around two more weeks for more definitive answers to those key questions. Just around 200 cases of the variant have been detected in 20 countries so far.
For now, Alaska health officials continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated. All adults 18 and older who are either six months past their last dose of an MRNA vaccine or two months past a Johnson & Johnson shot should get the booster shot, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.
As of Tuesday, about 61% of Alaskans 5 and older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 55% were considered fully vaccinated. The state ranks 27th-highest in the nation for its per capita vaccination rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alaska by Tuesday was ranked 16th among states for its case rate over the last week per 100,000 residents. For months earlier this fall, the state held the top spot.
About 99% of Alaska’s recently sequenced coronavirus cases have been caused by the highly transmissible delta variant that’s been linked to Alaska’s deadliest virus surge this fall.
The newly reported deaths included a woman from Anchorage in her 60s, and a man from the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area in his 40s. So far, 850 Alaska residents and 30 nonresidents have died from the the virus since the start of the pandemic.