COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in Alaska as virus spreads

The number of Alaskans hospitalized with COVID-19 has risen, worrying health care providers who are facing staffing issues and fatigue and wondering when the latest wave of cases might peak.

“I think our hope right now is that we’re going to hit the peak this month. I’m speaking purely from a hope standpoint,” said Jared Kosin, president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.

He added: “Nobody can figure out when we’re going to hit the ceiling, and that is what makes this so challenging.”

The state reported Wednesday that about 160 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized. A state health official described the level as on par with a previous peak around the end of 2020.

Alaska is experiencing high levels of transmission, owed almost entirely to the highly contagious delta variant, the state epidemiologist, Dr. Joe McLaughlin, said Wednesday.

During an online public briefing, state health officials were asked about any trends in coronavirus transmission and if large events like the Alaska State Fair in Palmer could contribute to increased spread of the virus. The fair, which began Aug. 20, ends Monday.

“I think there’s COVID everywhere,” said Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with the state, adding that it can be difficult to pinpoint where someone first contracted the illness “because there is just so much activity.”

McLaughlin said getting vaccinated is the “Number 1 thing you can do to help our community, help our state get this virus under control.”

He also cited wearing masks around people who are outside your household and maintaining distance in public. People who develop symptoms should get tested, he said.

About 55% of Alaskans 12 or older are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department.