In the week after Christmas, Alaska saw a 262% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases compared to the seven-day average in the previous reporting period.
According to state data, 3,689 cases were logged by Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services from Dec. 27 to Sunday. By contrast, in the prior period 1,018 cases were recorded.
Since this fall’s surge in the coronavirus delta variant, positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been on a gradual downward trend. But that is being upended by a dramatic climb in confirmed cases that mirrors trends across the country as the highly infectious omicron variant spreads at speeds never before seen in the pandemic.
Though Alaska labs have officially sequenced just a handful of omicron cases, those reports tend to lag behind on-the-ground trends. Last week, state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said there are indications the mounting surge is due to the variant spreading in Alaska.
As of Monday, the positivity rate for tests in Alaska — a measure of how many of the COVID tests reported to the state are turning up infections — is at 12.8%. That’s higher than during the height of the delta surge in October. The World Health Organization’s guidance recommends a positivity rate below 5%.
The current per-capita rate of infection is still well below highs seen in October, although that’s likely to change if viral spread continues accelerating at its current pace.
Statewide, only 21% of intensive-care unit beds are available. Currently, there are 55 people hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the state’s data dashboard.
The omicron variant is highly transmissible, though mounting evidence shows it is less lethal or likely to cause severe hospitalizations, particularly among the fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, even for those vaccinated and boosted, breakthrough cases are proving common.