Alaska reports record high 242 COVID-19 hospitalizations and more than 1,000 cases Thursday

The state also reported one new COVID-19 death
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 2:49 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 21, 2021 at 10:14 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska on Thursday reported a new record high number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 as well as more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases as the state once again leads the nation in the rate of new cases over the past week.

The state’s hospital data dashboard shows that there are 242 people hospitalized statewide with the virus, and that 30 are sick enough that they are on ventilators.

Alaska’s current COVID-19 surge is being largely driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Thursday that Alaska once again leads the nation for new COVID-19 cases per capita over the last seven days.

The number of Alaskans hospitalized with COVID-19 had dropped down into the 180s early in October, but had since jumped back up over 200. Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association President and CEO Jared Kosin said that state hospitals will not be seeing relief any time soon from any potential plateau in the current COVID-19 surge.

“I think there is a feeling from a transmission standpoint ... it feels like we’re starting to potentially plateau,” Kosin said.

But he cautioned that, especially in the health care sphere, “we’re still at a very dangerous place.” He confirmed that census numbers from Alaska hospitals show the highest number of people hospitalized with an active COVID-19 diagnosis to date, and said that hospitals and health care workers are operating at a high level of stress.

“We’re bracing for the level of stress we’ve been at for several more weeks,” Kosin said.

He pointed out that health care workers brought up from out of state have been helpful, from both a morale standpoint and in terms of relieving pressure. But “it’s just not letting up yet,” he said.

“We just need to remember we’re not out of this yet,” Kosin said. “A focal point of this pandemic has always been, how do we flatten the curve to not see it where health care resources are overrun. We overran our health care resources over the last two weeks.”

While there are positive indicators that Alaska’s case transmission may be leveling off, Kosin said that shouldn’t lull people into a false sense of security where hospitals and their operation are concerned.

“Until we see our hospitals normalize, as a health care system — frankly, as a society — we’re not out of it and we’re not going to be,” he said.

Kosin said earlier this week that even if the state’s COVID-19 cases do begin to plateau, lengthy hospital stays for COVID-19 patients and the complex needs of their care mean that the hospital system will take a while to “clear out.”

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services also reported 1,024 additional COVID-19 cases on Thursday, as well as one additional COVID-19 death of an Alaska resident.

The person who died was a woman in her 60s who lived on the Kenai Peninsula, according to the state health department. That brings the total number of resident COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began to 668, and the number of nonresident deaths to 24.

At least 20 state hospitals and health care facilities are operating under crisis standards of care after the state activated those guidelines for them. Some have had to ration care, while others have said their resources have not yet been stretched thin enough to require that.

The state’s hospital dashboard on Thursday showed that, as of Wednesday, there were just two adult ICU beds left open in Anchorage and 12 available statewide.

COVID-19 testing data shows Alaska has an average positivity rate of 10.4%. Health experts say the threshold of 5% indicates high virus transmission in a community.

The state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard shows that 59.6% of all eligible Alaskans age 12 and older are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and that 64.5% have gotten at least an initial vaccine dose.

Of the 1,024 additional COVID-19 cases reported Thursday, 1,001 of them were identified among Alaska residents of the following locations:

  • Anchorage: 389
  • Wasilla: 94
  • Eagle River: 53
  • Fairbanks: 51
  • Palmer: 43
  • Juneau: 31
  • Soldotna: 31
  • Kodiak: 26
  • Bethel Census Area: 25
  • Kenai: 23
  • Ketchikan: 20
  • Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula: 15
  • Northwest Arctic Borough: 15
  • North Pole: 13
  • Sterling: 13
  • Nome: 12
  • Chugiak: 10
  • Copper River Census Area: 10
  • Nome Census Area: 10
  • Sitka: 10
  • Valdez: 7
  • Homer: 6
  • Utqiaġvik: 6
  • Willow: 6
  • Big Lake: 5
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough North: 5
  • Kusilvak Census Area: 5
  • Anchor Point: 4
  • Bethel: 4
  • Delta Junction: 4
  • Dillingham Census Area: 4
  • Kotzebue: 4
  • Cordova: 3
  • Craig: 3
  • Dillingham: 3
  • Fairbanks North Star Borough: 3
  • Girdwood: 3
  • Houston: 3
  • Matanuska-Susitna Borough: 3
  • Nikiski: 3
  • Sutton-Alpine: 2
  • Tok: 2
  • Unalaska: 2
  • Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area: 2
  • Chevak: 1
  • Denali Borough: 1
  • Ester: 1
  • Healy: 1
  • Petersburg: 1
  • Prince Of Wales-Hyder Census Area: 1
  • Salcha: 1
  • Southeast Fairbanks Census Area: 1

The state also identified an additional 23 nonresident cases of COVID-19 across Alaska on Thursday, with six of them in Anchorage.

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

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