Alaska leads nation in new COVID cases

Dunleavy: we do have a virus that is a problem; it is a huge problem

Dr. Anne Zink, right, tours Ilanka Community Health Center. (May 13, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Alaska set a record high of 1,735 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Sept. 23, with five new cases of the pandemic virus in the Copper River Census Area, as the state’s largest hospital continued operating under crisis standards of care.

One day earlier the count of newly diagnosed individuals with the pandemic virus reached the previous single day record of 1,330 new cases, including four Cordova residents plus one nonresident and three in the Copper River Census Area. On Tuesday the 1,285 cases recorded included 14people in the Copper River Census Area and one in Cordova.

The update reported in Friday, Sept. 24 by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Included 58 new COVID-19 infections among nonresidents.

“We don’t have any indication that we are at the peak yet in Alaska,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state’s chief epidemiologist. “The trajectory is still upwards. We are in the biggest surge we have experienced in the pandemic.”

McLaughlin, Dr, Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, and Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum urged anyone who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 to get the vaccine, to help keep the virus from spreading. “Hospitals are overwhelming with the amount of COVID being seen, Zink said. “Without the vaccine you risk a higher chance of hospitalization and death,” she said.

Faced with staff shortages and the demands of treating a rising number of COVID patients, Providence Alaska Medical Center confirmed on Sept. 22 that the hospital has begun rationing treatment. The medical executive committee at Providence earlier, in a letter to fellow Alaskans issued earlier, confirmed that what with 30% of adult patients testing positive for COVID-19 that they were compelled to ration treatments, including dialyses and specialized ventilatory support, giving priority to those patients who have the potential to benefit most. The doctors noted that the decision to ration care there would have a statewide impact, as a lot of specialty medical care in Alaska is only provided in Anchorage.

Those needing emergency care are still being urged to go to the emergency room and not delay or avoid seeking medical care.

“We are under siege from the virus,” Zink said during a media conference on Wednesday, Sept. 22. “The Delta (variant) is different.  Delta is deadly,” she said.  “It’s impacting everyone. Get vaccinated,” she said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, emphasizing the medical urgency of the situation, said that hundreds of medical personnel are on their way to Alaska to assist in health care facilities for 90 days at the cost of $87 million, all reimbursable from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We do have a virus that is a problem; it is a huge problem,” Dunleavy said. “We believe the vaccination is the tool. I urge people to seriously consider vaccination.”

Still Dunleavy said he was not going to cajole or mandate that Alaskans get the vaccine and criticized those whom he said are making the pandemic a political issue.  “We don’t know what will happen two or three weeks from now,” he said. “We have to be very careful the next month, The Delta variant is causing more people to go to the hospital and more people to die.” The governor said people can help by being careful in their recreational activities outdoors, which often lead to injuries, so that they don’t end up in hospitals already under stress from staff shortages.  “When it comes to the health of Alaskans, I ask all Alaskans to pull together,” he said.

The newly diagnosed COVID-19 infections among state residents announced on Sept. 23:

  • Anchorage: 468
  • Wasilla 251
  • Fairbanks 217
  • Palmer 150
  • North Pole 81
  • Kenai 80
  • Soldotna 63
  • Eagle River 49
  • Northwest Arctic Borough 42
  • Utqiagvik 35
  • Juneau 31
  • Kodiak 30
  • Bethel Census Area 19
  • Chugiak 18
  • North Slope Borough 15
  • Nikiski 14
  • Haines 13
  • Kusilvak Census Area 11
  • Nome Census Area 10
  • Bethel, Dillingham, Homer, Kenai Peninsula Borough North, Seward 8
  • Salcha 7
  • Anchor Point, Big Lake, Copper River Census Area, Dillingham Census Area, Sterling, Valdez, Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon, Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area 5
  • Houston, Ketchikan, Kotzebue, Mat-Su Borough, Sitka, Sutton-Alpine, Willow 4
  • Delta Junction, Ester, Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area 3
  • Chevak, Douglas, Kodiak Island Borough, Nome 2
  • Chugach Census Area, Denali Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Fritz Creek, Girdwood and Healy 1

Forty-five new nonresidents were also confirmed in Wasilla, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Prudhoe Bay, Juneau, Delta Junction, Dillingham, Kenai, North Pole, Seward, Unalaska, Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon, and 11 unidentified locations.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said that 58.5% of Alaskans 12 and older are now fully vaccinated and that another 62.8% of those 12 and older have had at least their first dose.

To date DHSS has recorded 103,113 people in Alaska catching the virus, 2,335 hospitalizations and 514 deaths.

Currently there are 217 patients diagnosed with Forty-one of those patients are on ventilators.

A total of 2,996,597 tests have been conducted, including 46,556 within the seven days ending on Sept. 23.