Alaska’s surge in COVID-19 cases may be plateauing, but the next week and a half will determine whether that trend continues after weeks of pandemic-high case counts, the state’s top health official said this week.
“Here in Alaska, you can see that we’re starting to maybe plateau-ish,” Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, told reporters Thursday while she pointed to a graph of new cases in the state. Cases are not rising sharply the way they have for the past few weeks as the highly contagious omicron variant fueled the current virus surge.
Nationally, cases are declining, and health officials say Alaska can sometimes lag a few weeks behind the national case trends. At the moment, Alaska’s seven-day case rate is leading other U.S. states, even with Alaska reporting a 27% decrease in cases compared to the previous week, according to a CDC tracker.
On Friday, the state reported 3,830 new cases over the past two days. Despite the rise in cases slowing somewhat, most of the state is still in what’s considered a high-alert zone, meaning more than 100 cases are being reported per 100,000 people.
By Friday, 128 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. While hospitals continue to be strained by staffing shortages, there is still capacity among intensive care and non-ICU beds.
Health officials continue to underscore the importance of being vaccinated against the virus, given that in December 2021, unvaccinated Alaskans were 13.8 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated Alaskans.
Statewide, 61.7% of Alaskans ages 5 and older had completed their primary series of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Alaska reported no new COVID-19 deaths on Friday. Since March 2020, there have been 1,060 COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents and 33 nonresident deaths.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is planning to change how frequently it reports deaths from the virus due to the time and details involved before the state can release that information, Zink said. Instead of including newly reported deaths in its COVID-19 data updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the state will include that information in its Wednesday updates only, according to Zink.