Alaska News

Alaska reports 3 deaths and 441 COVID-19 cases over 2 days

Alaska on Wednesday reported three deaths and 441 new COVID-19 cases over the previous two days as the number of people hospitalized with active cases fell slightly.

By Wednesday, there were 76 people hospitalized statewide with active infections, down slightly from 77 patients Monday. Around 8% of all hospital patients in the state were COVID-positive.

“You can see that (hospitalizations) continue on a general downward trajectory, which is great,” Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, said Wednesday.

Those numbers don’t include some people recovering from the disease who need continued care. They represent a significant decrease from the high of more than 200 people hospitalized on average in September and October.

The state’s test positivity rate, which reflects the number of positive tests out of the total performed, was 4.5% as of Wednesday. Anything above 5% can indicate high transmission and not enough testing, epidemiologists say.

By Wednesday, Alaska ranked 31st among states for its seven-day COVID-19 case rate, with 208.1 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. New cases declined about 11% since last week.

“We were ranked No. 1 in the nation for quite a while by a large margin, so it’s good to finally see us drop down,” McLaughlin said, referencing the state’s delta-driven surge through September and October.

Alaska health officials continue to monitor for the new omicron variant of the coronavirus that’s raising questions and concerns around the world because of its many mutations, state health officials say. Omicron has been detected in numerous states but not yet in Alaska.

“We don’t yet have any reported cases (of the new variant) in Alaska, but that doesn’t mean it’s not here, it just means that we haven’t yet detected it,” McLaughlin said.

About 62% of Alaskans 5 and older have received one dose of the shot while 56% are considered fully vaccinated. Alaska currently ranks in the bottom third of the nation — at 34th — for its vaccination rate.

“We’re below the national average with respect to vaccinations, and so we really want to do what we can to boost up those vaccinations,” McLaughlin said.

He and other state health officials continue to encourage Alaskans who want to protect themselves against the omicron variant to get vaccinated or get booster shots against COVID-19 and practice the same measures — masking, social distancing, good hygiene — known to help prevent the spread of existing variants.

Between mid-January and the end of November, people who weren’t fully vaccinated accounted for 70% of all COVID-19 cases, 84% of hospitalizations and 81% of deaths among Alaskans 12 and older, according to state data.

Through November, the risk of hospitalization associated with the virus has been “tenfold” for those who are unvaccinated, McLaughlin said.

The deaths reported Wednesday involved an Anchorage man in his 50s, a Kenai woman in her 70s and a Kodiak man in his 60s, according to the state health department.

The newly reported deaths bring the state’s overall COVID-19 death toll to 856 residents and 30 nonresidents in the state. September and October 2021 were the deadliest months of the pandemic so far.

The state health department this week shifted to updating its COVID-19 dashboards on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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Annie Berman

Annie Berman covers health care for the Anchorage Daily News. She's a fellow with Report for America, and is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A veteran of AmeriCorps and Vista volunteer programs, she's previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in the Bay Area.

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