COVID-19 follow-up in Alaska: 3 deaths and 284 new cases reported on Tuesday

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State data showed that all three deaths involved Anchorage residents.

A total of 178 Alaskans and one non-resident with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began here in March. Alaska’s overall per capita death rate is among the lowest in the country, but officials say it’s difficult to compare Alaska to other states because of its vast geography and healthcare system vulnerable.

As of Tuesday, 133 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized statewide and seven others in hospitals suspected of having the virus. In total, 14.6% of people hospitalized in Alaska had COVID-19.

Across the state there were 38 Staffed adult intensive care unit beds left open. In Anchorage, where the state’s sickest patients often end up, only three of 72 beds in intensive care units were available.

While hospital staffing remained a major concern, Anchorage Department of Health Director Heather Harris told a recent media briefing that hospitals have the capacity to move staff if they are lacked intensive care beds.

New virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been on the rise statewide for weeks, but Tuesday’s daily case count was the lowest Alaska has seen since October 23, when 239 cases have been registered. The new low came two weeks after Anchorage entered a modified month-long version of a hunker-down aimed at reducing the number of cases and protecting the hospital’s capacity.

Meanwhile, thousands of the first doses of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech have arrived in Alaska. Doses will first be distributed to frontline healthcare workers in hospitals, followed by staff and residents of long-term care facilities starting this week. The next step will be EMS and firefighter personnel providing medical services, community health aids and practitioners, and the people needed to perform the vaccinations.

It’s unclear exactly when the general public will have access to a vaccine, but likely in late spring or summer, health officials said.

Of the 277 new cases reported Tuesday among residents of Alaska, 125 in Anchorage, plus four in Chugiak and two in Eagle River; two to Homer; four in Kenai; one in Nikiski; one in Seward; one in Soldotna; one in pounds sterling; 24 to Kodiak; 17 in Fairbanks, newer at the North Pole; two at Delta Junction; one in Tok; two at Big Lake; eight to Palmer; 24 in Wasilla; 10 in Utqiagvik; one in Douglas; nine in Juneau; one in Ketchikan; five in Sitka; one in Skagway; two at Bethel; one in Dillingham; and one in Hooper Bay.

Among the communities of less than 1,000 people not named for privacy protection, there were two in the Cordova census area; one in the Fairbanks North Star borough; one in the census area of ​​Nome; two in the North Slope borough; two in the Bethel census area; one in Bristol Bay plus the lake and peninsula area; and nine in the Kusilvak census area.

Of the seven new cases reported among non-residents, there have been five in Anchorage and two in an unidentified area of ​​the state.

While people can be tested more than once, each case reported by the state’s health department represents only one person.

It is not known how many people who tested positive had symptoms. The CDC estimates that about a third of people with coronavirus infections are asymptomatic.

The statewide test positivity rate was 6.14% over the past week, after peaking over 9% in mid-November. Health officials have said that a positivity rate above 5% may indicate widespread community transmission.

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