Alaska reports close to 1,600 COVID-19 cases over last 2 days

Hospitalizations for the virus still remain mostly level
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 2:27 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The state of Alaska reported nearly 1,600 additional COVID-19 infections over the last two days, as the omicron variant continues to spur a sharp uptick of cases in the state and across the country. Alaska’s number of people hospitalized with the virus, however, has remained mostly level over the last few weeks.

On Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 1,597 new COVID-19 cases — 84 of which are among nonresidents. Of the Alaska resident cases, the state health department reports there were 627 on Monday and 886 on Tuesday.

Alaska’s new cases of COVID-19 began to spike in late December following a period of steady decline in the wake of the previous delta variant surge. State case data shows that there’s been a 145% increase in COVID-19 cases this past week compared to the week of Dec. 22-28. On Tuesday, State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said the omicron variant is likely now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Alaska and is causing the dramatic spike in cases.

While the state currently has just seven confirmed cases of the variant listed for Alaska, McLaughlin has said it’s likely much higher than that, given the amount of time it takes to sequence case specimens and the fact that a state laboratory in Fairbanks had to shut down due to extreme winter weather, further slowing the process.

Alaska’s rate of new cases per capita is inching closer to what it was during the delta variant surge this fall, but Alaska has nowhere near the highest rate in the country, as it once did. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alaska’s average rate of new cases per capita over the last seven days is 509 cases per 100,000 people. The national average rate is over 1,100 cases per 100,000.

The number of people in Alaska’s hospitals with the virus, however, has remained mostly level over the last few weeks, hovering in the 50s. On Wednesday, the state reported 56 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide. Of those patients, 11 are on a ventilator.

Some early studies suggest that the omicron variant may be less virulent than delta, and less likely to land people in a hospital. McLaughlin said Tuesday that state health experts are “still following the science on that closely.”

The rise in cases driven by the omicron variant has spurred an increased demand for testing. On Tuesday the Anchorage Health Department announced it had given out the majority of the 25,000 at-home COVID-19 test kits it recently got through a program offered by the state. The city health department said it would be requesting an additional 25,000 kits to distribute to the public.

Those at-home test kits were not given out at two Anchorage locations in Spenard and Fairview on Tuesday due to the severe windstorm event in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office explained that was because Anchorage’s at-home test kits are stored in the Valley, which has been experiencing widespread power outages and dangerous driving conditions.

The tests were back in stock Wednesday at the Fairview Community Recreation Center and Spenard Community Recreation Center, and the city’s testing website advertised that they would be handed out from noon to 4 p.m.

Earlier in the week on Monday, many Anchorage residents trying to get a test found several sites closed in the city. The company that now runs several testing sites in the municipality, Capstone Clinic, is based in Wasilla and had to shutter sites from the Mat-Su to Anchorage due to the storm affecting equipment and staff levels.

Also on Tuesday, it was announced that a new testing location is opening in Anchorage for residents. Operated by Beacon Occupational Health and Safety Services in partnership with Beechtree Molecular Lab, the drive-through testing site is located at 701 E. Tudor Rd. and is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

According to state data, Alaska’s average rate of positive COVID-19 test results has jumped from under 5% in late December to more than 14% as of Wednesday. It’s the average rate of positivity for the state over the last week, and health experts say the threshold of 5% is an indicator of whether there is widespread virus transmission in a community.

The state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard shows that close to 61% of eligible Alaska residents and military members are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and that nearly 68% have gotten at least an initial dose. More than 22% have also gotten a booster dose, the state reports.

Of the 1,597 COVID-19 cases reported for the last two days, 1,513 of them were identified among Alaska residents of the following communities:

  • Anchorage: 658
  • Fairbanks: 170
  • Juneau: 124
  • Greater Wasilla area: 56
  • Sitka: 44
  • Eagle River: 42
  • Kusilvak Census Area: 40
  • North Pole: 34
  • Nome Census Area: 27
  • Ketchikan: 23
  • Kodiak: 19
  • Kenai: 17
  • Homer: 15
  • Unalaska: 14
  • Bethel: 13
  • Girdwood: 13
  • Soldotna: 13
  • Chugiak: 11
  • Dillingham: 11
  • Greater Palmer area: 11
  • Nome: 11
  • Bethel Census Area: 10
  • Fairbanks North Star Borough: 10
  • Kotzebue: 9
  • Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area: 9
  • Northwest Arctic Borough: 8
  • Wrangell: 8
  • Utqiaġvik: 7
  • Haines: 6
  • Hooper Bay: 6
  • North Slope Borough: 6
  • Aleutians East Borough: 5
  • Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area: 5
  • Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula: 4
  • Matanuska-Susitna Borough: 4
  • Metlakatla: 4
  • Petersburg: 4
  • Seward: 4
  • Anchor Point: 3
  • Copper River Census Area: 3
  • Craig: 3
  • Tok: 3
  • Valdez: 3
  • Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon: 3
  • Cordova: 2
  • Delta Junction: 2
  • Houston/Big Lake: 2
  • Kodiak Island Borough: 2
  • Nikiski: 2
  • Southeast Fairbanks Census Area: 2
  • Willow: 2
  • Aleutians West Census Area: 1
  • Dillingham Census Area: 1
  • Ester: 1
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough South: 1
  • Ketchikan Gateway Borough: 1
  • Sutton-Alpine: 1

Of the 84 additional nonresident COVID-19 cases reported over the last two days, 22 of them are in Anchorage, 13 are in Fairbanks and six each are in Juneau, Tok and Prudhoe Bay.

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