Alaska on Friday reported 1,870 new cases of COVID-19 over two days and fewer hospitalizations as part of a continued slowdown in emerging coronavirus infections in the state.
State health officials also confirmed this week that cases of a new coronavirus subvariant have been identified in Alaska.
Despite reporting fewer cases this week compared to previous ones, Alaska’s seven-day case rate continues to lead other U.S. states, according to a CDC tracker.
Case data generally does not reflect the large number of people testing positive in at-home tests, which have become increasingly popular as health officials encourage frequent testing as a way to prevent viral spread.
The number of COVID-positive patients in the state’s hospitals also continued to fall as reported Friday, from 119 on Tuesday to 105 by Thursday. The state’s larger hospitals have said worker call-outs are declining, too.
By Friday, 13 cases of the BA.2 variant had been detected around the state, said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist.
The earliest date of sample collection for those cases was early January, he said.
BA.2 — which is similar enough to the omicron variant that it’s considered a subvariant — is causing some concern worldwide because it appears to be even more infectious than the already very infectious omicron variant. It’s being called a “stealth” variant because it looks similar to other variants in initial lab tests.
For now, health officials in Alaska and Outside say that while they’re watching BA.2 closely, it does not appear to cause more severe illness than other strains of the virus, and vaccines appear to work well against symptomatic infection, especially for people who have received boosters.
This week, the state health department switched from including newly reported deaths in COVID-19 data updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to including that information in its Wednesday updates only.
Since the pandemic began, 1,081 Alaskans and 33 nonresidents have died from COVID-19.
Health officials continue to underscore the importance of being vaccinated against the virus. In December 2021, unvaccinated Alaskans were 13.8 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated Alaskans.
Statewide by Friday, 62% of Alaskans ages 5 and older had completed their primary series of the COVID-19 vaccine.