Alaska sets new hospitalization record, reports 6 new deaths

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 3:45 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:28 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska reported six additional COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday, and continued to set new records for the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 as the delta variant fuels the state’s current coronavirus surge.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 841 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, 808 of which are among Alaska residents. The daily reported totals have been creeping higher and closer to the state’s all-time highest number for a single-day case report.

According to prior case count summaries from the state health department, the state reported 933 new COVID-19 cases on Dec. 5, 2020. Of those, 908 were among Alaska residents.

The state also reported six new COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday. According to Elizabeth Manning, communications manager for the state health department, five of them were among Alaska residents and one was a nonresident who died in Alaska. These bring the total number of Alaska resident deaths that have been COVID-19 related to 442. A total of 14 nonresidents have died while in the state.

The people who died were an Eagle River man in his 60s, an Anchorage man in his 70s, two Anchorage women in their 70s, a Kenai woman in her 70s and a nonresident man also in his 70s.

The state’s hospital data dashboard on Wednesday showed there were at least 197 people being hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, the largest number of COVID-19 patients the state has had at any one time during the pandemic. Alaska jumped from having 165 COVID-19 patients late last week to 186 after Labor Day weekend.

State data also showed that as of Tuesday, there were nine adult ICU beds left open in Anchorage, and 26 still available statewide. There are 26 people sick enough with COVID-19 that they are on ventilators, the hospital dashboard shows.

These growing numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to strain Alaska’s health care system that is already stressed by the busy summer season, a staffing shortage and staff burnout. Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna reported Wednesday that it is at 110% capacity, with 54 admitted patients and a capacity of 49. The Kenai Peninsula hospital has 17 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 82% of whom are unvaccinated, according to the hospital.

Providence Alaska Medical Center on Monday revised its visitation policy due to rising COVID-19 cases in Anchorage, restricting visits for most adult patients with a few exceptions.

The surge in cases and increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations is largely being driven by the highly contagious delta variant. The most recent situation report from the Alaska Sequencing Consortium shows that 99% of all COVID-19 cases in the state that were sequenced the week starting Aug. 15 were found to be the delta variant.

Data from the state Section of Epidemiology shows that more people who are fully vaccinated are now contracting COVID-19, but that the majority of cases and hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people. The Section of Epidemiology’s monthly COVID-19 update shows that in May, just 8.6% of COVID-19 cases for that month were among fully vaccinated people. That jumped to 29.6% of cases in the month of July.

Still, data shows that even by the end of July, less than 20% of COVID-19 hospitalizations were vaccinated people who had breakthrough infections, which means about 80% of COVID-19 hospitalizations were among unvaccinated people.

By Wednesday, the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard showed that 55.8% of all eligible Alaskans age 12 and older are fully vaccinated, while 61.4% have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Since the pandemic began, the state has processed more than 2.81 million COVID-19 tests, and currently has a seven-day average positivity rate of 8.17%. The highest rate of COVID-19 test positivity for Alaska was back in November when it was 9.31%.

Of the 841 new cases reported on Wednesday, 808 of them were identified among Alaska residents of the following locations:

  • Anchorage: 331
  • Fairbanks: 105
  • Wasilla: 82
  • Utqiagvik: 36
  • North Pole: 32
  • Palmer: 30
  • Eagle River: 16
  • Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area: 16
  • Ketchikan: 15
  • Homer: 13
  • Juneau: 13
  • Seward: 11
  • Dillingham Census Area: 8
  • Kenai: 7
  • North Slope Borough: 7
  • Chugiak: 6
  • Houston: 6
  • Valdez: 6
  • Anchor Point: 5
  • Kotzebue: 5
  • Soldotna: 5
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough North: 4
  • Ketchikan Gateway Borough: 4
  • Nome: 4
  • Bethel: 3
  • Bethel Census Area: 3
  • Unknown locations: 3
  • Fairbanks North Star Borough: 3
  • Big Lake: 2
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough South: 2
  • Nome Census Area: 2
  • Northwest Arctic Borough: 2
  • Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area: 2
  • Willow: 2
  • Wrangell: 2
  • Bristol Bay/Lake and Peninsula Borough: 1
  • Delta Junction: 1
  • Dillingham: 1
  • Douglas: 1
  • Healy: 1
  • Hooper Bay: 1
  • Kodiak: 1
  • Matanuska-Susitna Borough: 1
  • Metlakatla: 1
  • Sitka: 1
  • Skagway: 1
  • Southeast Fairbanks Census Area: 1
  • Tok: 1
  • Unalaska: 1
  • Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon: 1

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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