In new report, DHSS details Alaska’s COVID-19 death rates

A shot of a recent State of Alaska Section of Epidemiology bulletin, centered on COVI-19...
A shot of a recent State of Alaska Section of Epidemiology bulletin, centered on COVI-19 morbidity and mortality rates.(KTUU)
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 10:27 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has been tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths from the start of the pandemic. Now, it’s released a new report, providing an overview that’s based on more detailed data gathered throughout an entire year.

That report is the State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin, a recent edition of which summarizes Alaska’s coronavirus-related deaths from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 of 2020.

Some of the general data trends are widely-known; for example, case counts increased drastically throughout the year, as expected. So did the death toll.

At the end of 2020, there were 46,045 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Alaska residents that were reported to the Section of Epidemiology within DHSS, the report said. The deaths of 245 residents were determined to be caused by or associated with the virus.

The report, however, also makes a point of highlighting several other notable trends identified within the data.

According to the bulletin, most but not all of the people who died had at least one underlying health condition. State officials knew the medical histories of 200 of the 245 people who passed; just ten of them had no underlying conditions associated with increased risk for severe incidents of COVID-19.

Those conditions include but are not limited to cancer, smoking, diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease and chronic heart disease.

Death rates by race and ethnicity show a high rate of fatalities among Alaska Native and American Indian persons, who made up about 37% of the total reported deaths. Whites comprised 41% of the mortality report, while Blacks, Hispanics, and those of multiple races tallied the lowest percentages, with 4% or less, each.

Additionally, since an earlier report released last fall, the mortality rates per 100,000 people increased in all regions, according to the bulletin, “but most markedly in rural areas.” Death rates were highest for the Anchorage and Mat-Su area, with 39.1; followed by the Southwest region, with 37.8; the Gulf Coast, with 34.5; the Interior, which recorded 25.4; a rate of 12.4 in the Southeast area; and 10.9 in Northern area.

The state also says that Alaska’s COVID-19 death rate was less than one-third the national rate, but that since the prior summary in mid-October, the death count quadrupled and rates increased in every region, age-range and racial and ethnic category.

Read the full bulletin here.

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