Alaska News

COVID deaths in Alaska down significantly in 2022 but still the 4th leading cause of death

COVID-19 deaths in Alaska were down significantly in 2022 compared to the previous year, but the coronavirus was still one of the leading causes of death, the Alaska Department of Health reported this week.

Among Alaska residents, there were 265 COVID-19 deaths reported in the state last year, according to the new report released this week from the department’s vital records office, which tracks all causes of death in the state.

That’s significantly fewer than the 762 virus-related deaths reported in 2021, when the delta wave of the pandemic swept through Alaska into the fall and winter, severely sickening many and pushing some hospitals past capacity.

“According to our findings, COVID-19 remained a significant cause of death among Alaska residents in 2022,” Richard Raines, a health research analyst with the state, said in an email, but he added that the virus-related death rate was “considerably lower” last year compared to the year before: a 65% decrease.

“We don’t yet have enough data to know whether 2022 represents the start of a long-term decreasing trend or just a correction following a particularly lethal surge,” Raines wrote.

Alaska’s decline was in line with national trends. Recent data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the COVID-19 death rate declined 47% last year compared to 2021.

According to preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the coronavirus fell from the third-leading cause of death nationally in 2021 to the fourth-leading cause in 2022.


However, despite widespread access to vaccines and therapeutics, 2022 was still the second-deadliest year of the pandemic in Alaska, and COVID-19 was the fourth-leading cause of death in the state, the report found.

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Both in Alaska and nationwide, the three leading causes of death last year were cancer, heart disease and unintentional injuries. In Alaska, deaths from the virus last year were highest during winter, from January to February, at the tail end of the delta wave, the report found.

The state’s data comes from death certificates, which include the a doctor’s determination of a patient’s cause of death, the department has said. Only if a physician judges that a COVID-19 infection is considered a primary cause of death is it counted in the state’s official toll.

The latest data captures the continued impact of a virus that arrived in the state more than three years ago and has killed more than 1,200 Alaskans.

It also shows the disproportionate impact the virus had on Alaskans by age, race or ethnicity, and gender.

Last year, the COVID-19 death rate among Alaska Native people was more than twice the rate of white residents.

The rate was also highest among Alaskans 65 and older compared to younger age groups, and a higher rate of men than women died from the virus last year, the report found.

Other data points from the report show the lessening impacts of the virus and a slow recovery from pandemic lows.

Life expectancy overall rose in Alaska in 2022 to 76.8 years, up from 75.4 in 2021. Alaska’s overall death rate was also lower last year compared to the year before: 804 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2022, compared to 907 in 2021.

Annie Berman

Annie Berman is a reporter covering health care, education and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in San Francisco before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at