A look at COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alaska

Hospitalization counts of coronavirus on the rise.
Hospitalization counts of coronavirus on the rise.(KY3)
Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 4:03 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy says Alaska is in the midst of a surge in coronavirus cases, but that the state’s hospital capacity is stable. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, however, says the city’s health capacity is unable to keep up with the increase in cases.

The state’s new infection rates continue to increase with nearly 100 cases every day. Younger adults under 40 years old are driving the increase.

According to the state’s dashboard, there were 29 COVID-19 patients hospitalized around the state Thursday, including three in the ICU and one on a ventilator. 22 of those positives cases were in Anchorage.

ICU occupancy statewide is 48% and 67% in Anchorage, according to Jared Kosin, president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.

He says the current occupancy rate is manageable but a wave is likely coming.

“We can absorb a surge, we have surge plans in place at every single facility, we have some alternate care facilities set up but once this wave kind of starts hitting and it will all hit pretty much at the same time, resources will be stretched thin immediately and the other real limitation in all of this is staffing, if our healthcare heroes start getting sick,” Kosin said.

77 of the state’s 169 ICU beds are currently occupied with both COVID and non-COVID patients.

“The fact that the numbers are going up and up and up and they are compounding, I mean every two weeks or so they are starting to double,” Kosin said. “The amount of positive cases are going to translate into hospitalizations, and regardless of our physical capacity we can only bear so much.”

Anchorage health officials have warned that hospitals are predicted to run out of ICU beds by mid-September.

At a press briefing Wednesday, Dr. Anne Zinke, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer said the state’s alert level for health care moved into “orange” for intensive-care occupancy.

“Alaska’s hospitals tend to run near capacity on a fairly frequent basis, particularly those in Anchorage, and so that’s not uncommon for them, they are running pretty full right now with traumas, heart attacks, strokes and other care so we are seeing that and we want to make sure that there is actual capacity to take care of COVID patients as well,” Dr. Zinke said.

The state’s health department is urging Alaskans to wear face coverings, wash hands and social distance.

Alaska continues to have one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the country.

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