With many hospitals still in crisis, Alaska now has the highest per capita case rate of any U.S. state after surpassing its winter peak for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
According to a New York Times tracker updated Tuesday, the average rate of new daily infections in Alaska over the past week is more than double the national average – and higher than any state. The state reported 861 cases on Tuesday after recording more than 2,000 new cases in three days over the weekend.
Although the number of cases and case rates do not take into account the number of people who test positive for COVID-19 who are symptomatic or seriously ill, the increase in the number of cases is often followed weeks later by a similar increase. hospitalizations and deaths.
The high volume of cases means the state is currently behind in data entry, affecting the ability to assess day-to-day trends, said Dr Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist of the ‘Alaska, in an interview.
“That being said, regardless, we know that very high incidence rates are currently occurring in most of Alaska. And we’ll just have to keep monitoring and hopefully we get a better idea of the trend in the next week or two, ”he said.
Alaska’s continually high counts are a sign that the latest push from the Delta variant has yet to stabilize.
Alaska hospitals continue to operate under once unimaginable circumstances. Last week, the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, announced it was switching to crisis care standards and treatment rationing due to a combination of staff shortages and COVID-19 cases which accounted for about a third of the hospital’s patients.
Hospital patients have since died due to limited resources and impossible choices doctors had to make, hospital administrators said on Monday. Providence is likely to remain in crisis mode for at least two more weeks, they said.
“Many states have a more robust hospital capacity than we do in Alaska, and as a result, they might be less vulnerable to COVID outbreaks,” McLaughlin said.
[Grim stories emerge from Providence hospital]
[Coronavirus Q&A: How many Alaskans who test positive are vaccinated? What about women’s fertility concerns?]
The number of COVID-positive patients hospitalized on Monday evening edged down to 196 after hitting a record 210 earlier this month. Hospitals say these numbers are likely an underestimate of the true impact of COVID-19, as they do not include some long-term COVID-19 patients who are no longer positive but still require hospital care.
Other hospitals in Anchorage and elsewhere are delaying elective surgeries and restricting visitors. Rural hospitals are struggling to transfer patients to higher level care.
The death toll from COVID-19 in Alaska rose on Tuesday with the deaths of six newly reported Alaskans. A total of 465 residents and 15 non-residents of the state have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic. Alaska’s overall death rate from the virus remains among the lowest in the country, but health officials have said national comparisons are complicated by the state’s vulnerable healthcare system and deaths are on the rise. increase due to the increase in the number of cases.
“Death tends to be a delayed indicator and can be up to two to three or even four weeks behind cases,” McLaughlin said.
Due to a summer cyberattack, the Alaska Vital Statistics section is behind schedule in entering death data, which may be part of the reason why Alaska’s death rate remains low compared to other states, McLaughlin said. About 25% of all deaths in the state from May to August this year have yet to be recorded, he said.
Since July, the state has reported 76 deaths from COVID-19 among Alaskans. Between May and June, when the number of cases was much lower, a total of 18 virus-related deaths among residents were reported.
[How do COVID-19 deaths in Alaska get counted?]
As of Tuesday, 62.5% of Alaskans had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 57.5% were fully immunized. Alaska was ranked 32nd in the country for vaccination rates per 100,000 population.
The statewide seven-day moving average for test positivity – positive results out of the total taken – was 9.62% on Tuesday. Health officials say anything over 5% indicates there is not enough testing.