Alaska is in the midst of an unprecedented increase in COVID-19 cases: The current rise far exceeds any other previous increases and lasted more than three weeks.
Cases of disease caused by the new coronavirus appear in every corner of the state – including eight in 11 state regions in a high-alert zone – while Alaska reported another death and 204 new COVID-19 cases in Saturday, according to the dashboard of the Department of Health and Social Services COVID-19.
The influx of cases is the same as the rising number of virus cases in many parts of the Low 48. The daily reported cases of Alaska hit triple digits within 24 straight days.
The death reported Saturday involved a Fairbanks man in his 90s who died recently, according to the state health department. In all, 67 Alaskans with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began here in March.
Across the state as of Saturday, 50 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 while 18 other hospital patients are awaiting test results, state data said. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are often referred to as a “constant indicator,” meaning people can show up in hospital weeks after the initial test is positive.
In new cases, it is not clear how many patients show symptoms of the virus when they test positive. While people can be tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only one person.
The current wave is different from the state’s previous rise in July, state health officials said in a call to reporters on Thursday: There are many cases so far, but there are also many tests available – even state needs more. In addition, there are many cases across the state, in many rural communities, compared to the concentrated explosions on fish processing plants that took place in July.
“We have better treatment and understanding of the disease today than we did in July, and we think that plays a role in death as well as hospitalization,” Alaska’s chief medical officer said. Dr. Anne Zink, on Thursday called with reporters.
But the biggest difference between the current spike and summer surge is that it is colder, Zink said. More people are inside the house and more people are tired. The challenges are solitary as many people go through it over time.
“We understand this disease better every day,” Zink said. “And so we really want to encourage the Alaskans to be hopeful (and) at the same time be resilient. I think this fall and winter can be very challenging as cases increase.”
But it is not too late to slow the current influx of cases, health officials said.
“We know what works with COVID,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist. “We showed it in Alaska, we showed it in the United States and we showed it in many countries around the world. It makes simplification.”
Many points and data indicators are the worst they have experienced since the pandemic began.
Between October 4 and October 10, Alaska witnessed a steady increase in cases, with 40% more cases than a week before.
The reproductive number of the state, which is the average number of people with a single person infected with the virus, saw a “significant increase” recently – until 1.18 of October 10. A number of reproductive over one means that the state epidemic is growing because every person is spreading the virus to more than one person.
The state positive rate, or the percentage of positive tests from the total tests, continued to climb this week with a 4.94% positivity rate as of Saturday, just slightly below the national average of 5.3 %.
“While many states have a higher rate of positivity than Alaska, this increase is about because the rate of positivity is our best measure if our testing ability can keep up with current cases. an increase in the rate of positivity reflects that the test is not rising as fast as the current increase in cases, “state health officials wrote in a recent report..
While Alaska has the lowest death rate per capita in the country, Vermont and Wyoming have fewer total deaths.
State health officials said they had no reason to think the virus in Alaska was more serious compared to other areas. They said recent studies have shown that COVID-19 strains in the state are as severe, if not more so, than strains in other parts of the Western US
“This means that the virus present in many Alaska communities has the potential to infect people of all ages if it is allowed to continue to spread,” state health officials said.
Last week, Anchorage saw a 40% increase in new cases, Drs. Janet Johnston, epidemiologist at the Anchorage Health Department, in a bid on Friday. This is the first week that Anchorage averages more than 100 new cases per day, with 102.2 new cases a day on average.
Based on estimates that only one in 10 people with COVID-19 was actually identified as infected, Johnston said it is possible that up to 8,500 people in Anchorage are infected with the virus.
Across the state as of Saturday, many regions of the state have tilted to the high alert area, with more than 10 cases per 100,000 people reported in the last two weeks. The high level of alert indicates that there is widespread transmission of the virus community and many cases go unnoticed as well as frequent outbreaks, according to the state health department.
Some areas, such as Anchorage, Northwest Alaska and Fairbanks North Star Borough, reported a triple threshold, with averages in the low 30. Other regions, such as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, was new to the red zone on Saturday, with more than 10 cases per 100,000.
Only three regions on the state alert level map are not in the red zone as of Saturday, including the Southwest region and most of Southeast Alaska outside of the City and Borough of Juneau.
Of the 201 new COVID-19 cases involving residents, 90 are in Anchorage; three are in Chugiak; 10 are on the Eagle River; one is in Girdwood; one is in Homer; one is in Kenai; four are in Soldotna; two are in Sterling; one is in Kodiak; two are in Healy; 15 are in Fairbanks; four are on the North Pole; five are in Delta Junction; two are in Tok; five are in Palmer; 15 in Wasilla; three are in the Willow; five are in Utqiagvik; 12 are in Juneau; two are in Ketchikan; three were in Petersburg; one is in Craig; one is in Unalaska; three are at Bethel; and two are in Chevak.
Among the communities of less than 1,000 not identified to protect confidentiality, there is one in the northern Kenai Peninsula; one at Fairbanks North Star Borough; two in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in the Nome Census Area; and three in the Bethel Census Area.
Of the three non-resident cases, two were in Anchorage and one was in Wasilla.
The state test positive rate until Saturday was 4.94% within the seven-day rolling average.
[Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the individual who died was from Anchorage. He was a Fairbanks resident.]