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Alaska reports close to 2,300 cases over weekend, 1 new death

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations reported Monday is the second-highest so far in the pandemic
COVID-19
COVID-19(KFYR)
Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 3:10 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2021 at 5:04 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska reported more than 2,200 new COVID-19 infections from over the weekend, as well as one additional death and 216 COVID-19 hospitalizations as the current virus surge continues.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 2,290 additional COVID-19 infections on Monday from the last three days. Of those, state data shows 55 of them were nonresident cases.

According to data from the state’s coronavirus response hub, there were 1,075 cases reported to the state on Friday, 796 cases on Saturday and 419 cases on Sunday.

The online dashboard also shows one additional COVID-19 death of an Alaska resident. The person who died was a man in his 50s from the Kusilvak Census Area, according to the state health department.

Since the pandemic began in March, the state has reported a total of 558 Alaska resident deaths and 21 nonresident deaths that have been related to COVID-19.

Monday’s new data comes as Alaska’s rate of new cases per capita remains the highest in the nation. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the average percent of case positivity for Alaska over the last week has been 8-9.9%. The state with the second-highest case rate is North Dakota.

The COVID-19 surge, largely driven by the highly contagious delta variant, has continued to put stress on Alaska’s hospitals as the workforce gets burned out and the number of COVID-19 patients increases. The state’s hospital data dashboard showed that, as of Sunday, there were 216 people being hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide. Of those, 40 people are sick enough that they are on ventilators.

Over the weekend, the state took another step toward addressing the ongoing surge by enacting crisis standards of care guidelines for 20 hospitals and health care facilities. A handful of them had already activated their own crisis care standards, but many others had not.

The guidelines provide framework for health care providers to make decisions about allocating resources and treatment when the facilities are overwhelmed, if they get to a point where care rationing is needed. Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau said Monday that, though it was included on the list of 20 facilities, it has not yet reached the point where it needs to ration care.

“Bartlett is nowhere near re-allocating care for our patients,” stated a Monday press release. “If we reach a level where we prioritize care, the designation allows BRH to operate within the crisis standards of care framework.”

“Outpatient elective surgeries continue uninterrupted and surgeries that may require a post-operative stay in the hospital are assessed daily,” Chief Operating Officer Vlad Toca is quoted as saying in the release.

Other hospitals, like Providence Alaska Medical Center, have been operating under crisis standards of care for some time. The state’s largest hospital described a number of circumstances last month in which care standards had to be shifted for patients, with grim outcomes.

Crisis standards of care also provide liability protection for providers and facilities that, when the circumstances call for it, have to made decisions about allocating treatment and resources.

Hospitals continue to experience pressure in part from what administrators have described as a burnt out workforce, and a staffing shortage. The state of Alaska entered an agreement that is bringing close to 500 health care workers up from the Lower 48 to help lessen the burden, and many of them have already arrived.

Some have alleged that hospitals have contributed to their own staff shortages by enacting vaccine policies that require them for staff as a condition of employment. It’s a claim Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has made as well. Some of those policy deadlines have not yet been reached, and Providence Alaska Medical Center and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium have both said they have not experienced any staff loss due to their policies yet.

The vaccine policy deadline for Foundation Health Partners, which owns Fairbanks Memorial Hospital as well as two clinics, was Friday, Oct. 1. According to a press release sent that day, 11 employees left the organization rather than get vaccinated or submit a religious or medical exemption, out of a total of 1,850. That’s about 0.6% of Foundation Health Partners’ total staff.

According to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard, 61.5% of all eligible Alaskans 12 and older are now fully vaccinated, and more than 63% have gotten an initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Of the 2,290 COVID-19 cases reported Monday, 2,235 of them were identified as Alaska residents of the following communities:

  • Anchorage: 744
  • Wasilla: 265
  • Fairbanks: 230
  • Palmer: 104
  • Eagle River: 77
  • North Pole: 76
  • Northwest Arctic Borough: 67
  • Soldotna: 64
  • Kenai: 63
  • Kodiak: 49
  • Juneau: 45
  • North Slope Borough: 42
  • Utqiagvik: 27
  • Chugiak: 26
  • Ketchikan: 26
  • Bethel Census Area: 24
  • Sterling: 21
  • Dillingham: 20
  • Nome Census Area: 18
  • Nome: 16
  • Petersburg: 16
  • Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area: 16
  • Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula: 15
  • Homer: 15
  • Bethel: 14
  • Big Lake: 11
  • Girdwood: 11
  • Delta Junction: 10
  • Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon: 10
  • Sutton-Alpine: 9
  • Willow: 9
  • Valdez: 8
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough North: 7
  • Kotzebue: 7
  • Nikiski: 6
  • Salcha: 6
  • Seward: 6
  • Chugach Census Area: 5
  • Fairbanks North Star Borough: 5
  • Kusilvak Census Area: 5
  • Matanuska-Susitna Borough: 5
  • Copper River Census Area: 4
  • Dillingham Census Area: 4
  • Fritz Creek: 4
  • Ester: 3
  • Houston: 3
  • Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area: 3
  • Southeast Fairbanks Census Area: 3
  • Tok: 3
  • Ketchikan Gateway Borough: 2
  • Sitka: 2
  • Aleutians West Census Area: 1
  • Chevak: 1
  • Healy: 1
  • Metlakatla: 1

The state also reported 55 additional nonresident COVID-19 cases throughout Alaska.

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

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