Surge in COVID infections continues to climb

Medical Response Team calls for universal masking mandate

Confirmed active cases of the novel coronavirus are rising in Cordova, and Dr. Paul Gloe, medical director at the Cordova Community Medical Center, says more new cases are anticipated, due to holiday travel and people spending more time than expected in crowded airports.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is very contagious, and with increased testing CCMC expects to see more cases, he said.

Within the week ending on Monday, Jan. 10, testing confirmed 29 individuals in Cordova had active cases of the virus he said. None of these people had been hospitalized. Supportive care advised for all of them has been to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, take temperatures daily to check for fever and watch for shortness of breath, he said.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, school superintendent Alex Russin alerted all parents, community members, school staff and students via written notice that a university masking mandate through Jan. 22 has been recommended by Cordova’s Medical Response Team to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Russin said that after discussing the situation with Dr. Hannah Sander’s, chief executive officer of the Cordova Community Medical Center, that the Medical Response Team had recommended to the school district that universal masking be implemented for the next 10 calendar days, beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

The Medical Response Team came to a consensus that three cases of unrelated individuals in school would be an appropriate point at which to initiate universal masking again while continuing to monitor the changing pace of the situation locally. There are indications that we have reached that point in both schools, Russin said.

“I am writing to let you know that students should arrive to school tomorrow prepared to wear masks in an effort to help mitigate the current evolving situation in our community,” Russin wrote. “Current mitigation strategies will continue as have been in place this school year.”

Russin said the school district administrators would continue to connect with medical personnel on a regular basis and make announcements regarding any shifts needed in this unfolding situation.

Meanwhile in Anchorage, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has gone to Level Red.

That means putting in place Level Red, the facility’s most restrictive visitor policy. No visitors or escorts for adult patients will be allowed except in certain rare circumstances.

The exceptions are that one parent or guardian will be allowed for pediatric patients not in isolation and that end-of-life patients will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The hospital is asking that parents and/or guardians for pediatric patients stay in the unit. If they leave re-entry will not be allowed.

Under this temporary visitation policy, the hospital will utilize technology to connect family members

whenever possible, they said.

Staff at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage are also encouraging all patients, regardless of their vaccination status, to get tested prior to traveling to Anchorage if testing is available in their area.

ANMC staff will continue to conduct COVID-19 tests upon arrival in Anchorage if the patient’s arrival is 12 hours or more before a procedure and during testing site hours.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is releasing updates on the number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

On Monday, Jan. 10, DHSS reported a total of 3,284 new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska from Friday, Jan. 7, through Sunday, Jan. 9, as the state remained on high alert. Since the pandemic began spreading in Alaska in March 2020 there have been a total of 162,626 resident cases, plus 5,992 nonresident cases, with 3,290 resident hospitalizations and 948 resident deaths.

The latest list included four residents of Cordova and four in the Copper River Census Area.

As of Jan. 10, 80 individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 were hospitalized and five others considered persons under investigation brought the total number hospitalized to 85, eight of whom were on ventilators, DHSS officials said.

A total of 57.8% of Alaskans five years of age and older have been fully vaccinated and another 63.25% of those five and older have received at least their first dose of vaccine. Juneau, at 78% fully vaccinated, remains the most fully vaccinated region of the state, followed by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region, 73.9% and other areas of the northern portion of Southeast Alaska, 72.8%. The three areas with the lowest percentage of vaccinations were Fairbanks North Star Borough, 49.8%; Kenai Peninsula Region, 48%; and Matanuska-Susitna Region, 40.8%.

New resident cases included:

  • Anchorage 1,650
  • Juneau 211
  • Fairbanks 200
  • Kodiak 172
  • Greater Wasilla Area 132
  • Eagle River 95
  • Sitka 75
  • Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area 60
  • Nome Census Area 52
  • Greater Palmer Area, North Pole 44
  • Utqiagvik 34
  • Bethel 31
  • Nome 30
  • Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area 29
  • Ketchikan 26
  • Homer, Soldotna 25
  • Haines, Kotzebue 21
  • Chugiak, Kenai 20
  • Kusilvak Census area, 18
  • Unalaska 16
  • Anchor Point 15
  • Northwest Arctic Borough, Seward 13
  • Craig, Valdez 10
  • Bethel Census Area 9
  • Seward 13
  • Craig, Valdez 10
  • Bethel Census Area 9
  • Hoonah-Angoon and Yakutat combined, Kenai Peninsula Borough-North 8
  • Sterling 6
  • Aleutians East Borough, Wrangell 5
  • Aleutians West Borough, Bristol Bay/Lake and Peninsula boroughs combined, Tok 4
  • Dillingham Houston/Big Lake Area Kenai Peninsula Borough-South 3
  • Delta Junction, Dillingham Census Area, Girdwood, Matanuska-Susitna Borough 2
  • Denali Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Fritz Creek, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Nikiski, Sutton-Alpine, Willow and one residence under investigation 1

The 76 nonresident cases included:

  • Anchorage 21
  • Aleutians East Borough, Fairbanks 9
  • Aleutians West Borough 8
  • North Slope Borough 7
  • Juneau, Kodiak 3
  • Homer 2
  • Soldotna, Ketchikan, Palmer, Home, Kotzebue, Sitka 1

DHSS is no longer reporting data on testing, due of the increased use of at-home rapid antigen testing, where results are not reported to the state. In addition, effective Jan. 10, some testing organizations will be required to report positive COVID-19 test results and will not need to report negative results to the Section of Epidemiology, DHSS officials said.