Alaska’s COVID-19 case count for August is third highest during pandemic

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 7:07 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The delta variant is still making its way through the state and causing cases to surge, and Alaska’s case count for all of August sets the state back to where it was months ago.

Approximately 13,859 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Alaska in the month August, according to case count summaries from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Only November and December of 2020 saw more cases reported, with about 16,221 and 14,410 cases respectively.

‘We’re currently in a large surge,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist. “Our case counts continue to be very high.”

August saw more than 2.5 times more COVID-19 cases than July, according to state health department case count summaries.

“Right now, Fairbanks is at the highest point it’s ever been with respect to weekly case counts,” McLaughlin said. “And Juneau is also at the highest point it has been.”

By the end of August, the state had reported a total of more than 88,000 cases for residents and nonresidents throughout the entire pandemic in Alaska.

McLaughlin said the delta variant is to blame for the cascade of cases.

“Delta is really causing this massive surge nationally, as well as here in Alaska,” he said.

Roughly 99% of all cases successfully sequenced in the United States are the delta variant, McLaughlin said.

“Because this variant is so much more transmissible, it’s able to find the little nooks and crannies and find the people who are susceptible and infect them much, much easier than previous strains,” McLaughlin said.

At the end of August, the World Health Organization declared the mu variant as a variant of interest.

It was first detected in Alaska in May, but health officials continue to be more concerned about the delta variant. McLaughlin said the state’s cases of mu are waning as the delta variant becomes more predominant.

Vaccination rates continue to slowly rise in Alaska.

While they don’t prevent 100% of infections, they’ve shown to reduce the likelihood of infection considerably,” McLaughlin said.

By the end of August, the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard showed 55% eligible Alaskans — those 12 and older — were fully vaccinated, which is up from 54.2% at the start of the month.

“While we’ve seen waning immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID disease, the protection that vaccines afford against hospitalization, ICU stays and death remains very robust over time,” McLaughlin said.

As vaccination rates climb, the pool of people who can get breakthrough infections does too.

“If the entire population were to become vaccinated, 100% of the cases that might occur in that population would be a breakthrough case,” McLaughlin said.

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