Alaska leads nation in new COVID cases

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

Alaska continues to be one of the hottest spots in the nation for COVID-19 cases, with 4,753 new cases reported in the state in just four days, plus 31 deaths.

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services officials on Tuesday, Sept. 28, documented 726 cases on the previous day, including six in the Copper River Census Area, two in Cordova, and one nonresident at Cordova, plus 10 deaths statewide.

The tally on Monday, Sept. 27, for the weekend beginning on Friday, Sept. 24, included 4,025 new cases, including 16 in the Copper River Area and three in Cordova, plus 21 deaths.

There have been 2,371 resident hospitalizations and 542 deaths today. The death toll is compiled from the most recent reports taken from medical records and does not mean the individual’s passing on the date it was recorded for the state COVID count by DHSS.

On Thursday, Sept. 23, the state had a record high of 1,735 newly infected COVID patients for a single day, including five in the Copper River census area, as the state’s largest hospital continued operating under crisis standards of care.

“We don’t have any indication that we are at the peak yet in Alaska,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state’s chief epidemiologist, during a recent news conference on the pandemic. “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. 28:

  • Anchorage: 211
  • Fairbanks 85
  • Wasilla 37
  • Kodiak 36
  • Utqiagvik 30
  • Eagle River 28
  • Juneau 23
  • Bethel Census Area, North Pole 21
  • Palmer 17
  • Bethel 14
  • Sitka 11
  • Kenai, Ketchikan 10
  • Seward 9
  • Homer, North Slope Borough, Valdez 8
  • Chugiak, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Kusilvak Census Area 7
  • Anchor Point, Chevak, Copper River Census Area, Unalaska 6
  • Kotzebue, Southeast Fairbanks Census Area 5
  • Nome Census Area, Soldotna, Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon 4
  • Dillingham Census Area, Healy, Nikiski, Northwest Arctic Borough 3
  • Cordova, Delta Junction, Dillingham, Houston, Kenai Peninsula Borough North, Nome, Skagway, Willow 2
  • Aleutians East Borough, Big Lake, Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs, Craig, Douglas, Fritz Creek, Girdwood, Hooper Bay, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Kodiak Island Borough, Mat-Su Borough and Sterling,1
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Thirty-two new nonresidents were also confirmed in Anchorage, Ketchikan, Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, Denali Borough, Bethel, Cordova, Kodiak, Seward, Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Valdez and one undisclosed location.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said that 59.1% of Alaskans 12 and older are now fully vaccinated and that another 63% of those 12 and older have had at least their first dose.

To date DHSS has recorded 107,640 people in Alaska catching the virus, 2,371 hospitalizations and 542 deaths.

Currently there are 209 patients diagnosed with five additional people under observation for COVID and 33 of those patients are on ventilators.

A total of 3,035,204 tests have been conducted, including 45,228 within the seven days ending on Sept. 27.