Public health workers push for more vaccinations in the Mat-Su, where COVID-19 case rates are the highest in Alaska

Signage located long the Parks Highway in Wasilla directs travelers.
Signage located long the Parks Highway in Wasilla directs travelers.(KTUU)
Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 9:04 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - According the Department of Health and Social Services, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough reported 49 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

The Municipality of Anchorage reported 44 new cases, marking the second time in a week that the Valley has recorded a higher number of cases than the largest city in the state.

For the past two weeks, the borough has seen an average rate of new cases of around 41 per 100,000 residents. The lowest daily reporting during that period was around 35 new cases.

In the same stretch, Anchorage has ranged from around 12 to just under 16 new cases, based on the same population metrics.

Rene Dillow, who serves as the nurse manager with the Mat-Su Public Health Center, says the Mat-Su’s numbers are the highest in the state at the moment, but they aren’t the highest numbers that the Valley has seen over the course of the pandemic.

She told Alaska’s News Source Friday that public health officials do not know exactly why cases are higher at this time, but it could be related to a recent string of sporting events that have occurred in the Valley.

She also says one of the most common scenarios for transmitting the virus is in a setting where people are gathered together to eat.

In March, the borough was allocated more that 10,000 vaccine doses. Dillow says that this week’s announcement that all adults can receive the vaccine has prompted an uptick in demand.

“Right now, we have appointments up, available for Raven Hall on Tuesday, and Capstone is taking walk-ins,” she said.

Capstone recently set up a vaccination clinic inside of the old former Sears building in Wasilla.

While some borough residents are lining up for their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, some say they do not plan on getting inoculated.

“If people want to get the vaccine it’s their choice,” said Wasilla resident Leah Erb. “I don’t hate them for it, I don’t disagree with them — It’s just my personal choice not too.”

Another Valley resident, 73-year-old John Morad, says he got both doses, mainly because he felt it was the quick path toward seeing his grandson and participating in community gatherings without worrying about the virus.

“I’m the oldest hockey player in our adult hockey league and I am pretty proud of that,” he said. “I just keep going and I don’t want to ever want to stop. I appreciate getting the vaccine.”

According to the latest data from the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard, at least 17,047 Mat-Su residents have received one dose of the vaccine and 11,187 residents are fully vaccinated.

Based on the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, that means roughly 16% of adults in the Valley have gotten at least one dose and around 10% are fully vaccinated.

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