Updated: 1 hour ago Published: 4 hours ago
COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases reported to Alaska’s health department increased in the past week as the “stealth” omicron subvariant remained prevalent. A new variant driving up cases in the Lower 48, however, is starting to arrive in Alaska.
While the state’s weekly data doesn’t reflect home test results, public health officials say it should generally reflect broader pandemic trends.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services now updates all of its COVID-19 data only on Wednesdays. Here are a few main takeaways from the latest data available:
• By Wednesday, there were 41 COVID-positive patients hospitalized around Alaska, an increase from 33 a week earlier but far below peak numbers earlier in the pandemic. Just over 3% of Alaska’s hospital patients were COVID-positive. Four required a ventilator.
• The regions with the highest per capita case rates this week included Skagway, Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the Northwest Arctic Borough, all at more than 400 cases per 100,000 people. That data represents reported cases and not at-home tests, but regional levels provide a sense of larger case trends, officials say.
• The state health department on Wednesday reported 1,629 cases of COVID-19 in Alaska over a seven-day period, a 6% increase compared to last week. That’s an average of nearly 233 cases per day. Noting state reports of elevated case counts in Juneau, local officials recommended masking in indoor public spaces especially when close contact is unavoidable. The state data does not include at-home tests, which do not get reported to the state and have grown in popularity this year. The tests are effective but may not detect positive results as early as the PCR tests used in clinical settings.
• The state reported 15 more deaths linked to the virus: two Anchorage men in their 40s; an Anchorage man in his 50s; an Anchorage woman, a Kusilvak man, and a Wasilla man, all in their 60s; an Anchorage man, a Fairbanks man, a Mat-Su woman, a Seward woman and two Wasilla men, all in their 70s; and a Fairbanks man and a Kusilvak man, both 80 or older. In total, 1,235 COVID-19 deaths among residents and 33 among nonresidents have been reported since March 2020. Many of the deaths reported by the state in recent weeks occurred weeks to months earlier.
• Alaska’s seven-day new case rate per 100,000 people fell to 17th highest in the nation this week, according to a CDC tracker.
• According to Alaska’s coronavirus variant dashboard, the vast majority of the most recently sequenced viruses were the BA.2 stealth omicron subvariant, which appears more transmissible than other variants but not more virulent or better at evading immune responses conferred by vaccination or prior infection. But a few new cases of a newer omicron variant are starting to show up here, chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink said in a briefing Wednesday.
• As of Wednesday, 65% of eligible Alaskans as well as military personnel had completed their primary vaccine series. That number has been very slowly ticking up in recent weeks. Just over 31% of eligible people are fully vaccinated with at least one booster.
• The FDA approved another Pfizer or Moderna booster shot for those 50 and older, as well as for certain younger individuals with severely compromised immune systems, if it’s been at least four months since their last vaccination. Information about getting a vaccine shot or booster in Alaska is available at covidvax.alaska.gov.
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