Alaska reports close to 1,000 COVID-19 cases in 2 days, marking sharp increase as omicron continues to spread

COVID-19 cases rose by 66% this past week compared to the week before
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 8:33 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska reported 996 additional COVID-19 infections for the last two days, an uptick compared to the steady decline in new cases the state had been enjoying the last two months.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 996 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, 52 of which are among nonresidents. State case data shows a 66% increase in new cases this past week compared to the week before. State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said earlier this week that Alaska’s cases are expected to increase as the omicron variant continues to spread. Prior to this week, new cases in Alaska had been steadily declining since the surge spurred by the delta variant this fall.

The state is currently reporting a total of six confirmed cases of the omicron variant, but sequencing specimens to determine what variant they are is a process that can take up to two weeks. McLaughlin said on Monday that he suspected the small number of currently identified omicron cases are just a small subset of the true number.

Alaska also reported two additional COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday. Both were Alaska residents, according to the state health department. One was an Anchorage woman in her 50s and the other an Anchorage man in his 60s. Since the pandemic began here in March 2020, the state has recorded a total of 947 Alaska resident deaths and 31 nonresident deaths related to the virus.

Statewide hospitalizations due to the virus, however, have remained mostly stable over the last few weeks, dropping from 57 on Monday to 52 on Wednesday. Hospitalizations and deaths are some of the most lagging indicators when it comes to tracking COVID-19′s impact on a community, but McLaughlin said earlier this week that while cases have risen drastically across the nation in response to the omicron variant, hospitalizations have not risen nearly as much.

There are some studies suggesting the omicron variant is more mild than the delta variant, but McLaughlin said that’s not yet known for sure. Health experts do know that omicron is much more easily spread than delta, though. The omicron variant continues to surge nationally, and this week new cases of COVID-19 reached a new record level in the U.S.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the average nationwide rate of new COVID-19 cases is about 584 per 100,000 people. In Alaska, the rate of new cases is just 143.8, though that’s a metric the state once led during the height of Alaska’s delta variant surge this fall.

Alaska health experts are recommending people take a layered approach to protecting themselves, and still suggest vaccination and booster doses, if eligible, as an important step in those protections.

The state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard shows that 60.5% of eligible Alaska residents age 5 and older and members of the military are now fully vaccinated against the virus. The state resident vaccine data is combined with data from the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The dashboard shows 67.6% of Alaskans 5 and older and military members have gotten at least an initial vaccine dose, and that 21.4% have gotten a booster dose.

Of the 996 COVID-19 cases reported by the state on Wednesday, 944 of them were identified among Alaska residents of the following communities:

  • Anchorage: 463
  • Greater Wasilla area: 90
  • Juneau: 75
  • Fairbanks: 59
  • Eagle River: 26
  • Greater Palmer area: 26
  • Ketchikan: 24
  • Kodiak: 23
  • Haines: 12
  • North Pole: 12
  • Bethel: 9
  • Bethel Census Area: 8
  • Homer: 8
  • Kenai: 8
  • Chugiak: 7
  • Girdwood: 7
  • Hoonah-Angoon plus Yakutat: 3
  • Hooper Bay: 3
  • Nome: 3
  • Northwest Arctic Borough: 3
  • Petersburg: 3
  • Seward: 3
  • Anchor Point: 2
  • Cordova: 2
  • Houston/Big Lake: 2
  • Kusilvak Census Area: 2
  • Matanuska-Susitna Borough: 2
  • Aleutians East Borough: 1
  • Denali Borough: 1
  • Dillingham Census Area: 1
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough North: 1
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough South: 1
  • Kotzebue: 1
  • Metlakatla: 1
  • Nome Census Area: 1
  • Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area: 1

Of the 52 nonresident cases reported for the last two days, 25 of them were in Anchorage and 11 were in Wasilla.

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