Alaska on Wednesday reported 214 new coronavirus infections identified over the last five days and no COVID-19-related deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The health department now updates its coronavirus dashboard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays excluding holidays. Because of the Independence Day holiday, there has been no update since last Friday.
The state’s overall alert level is currently low, though some regions of the state — including Anchorage and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta — have recently creeped back up into the intermediate or high alert category due to rising case counts in those communities. Health officials continue to encourage Alaskans to get vaccinated against the virus, noting that the vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing illness from the virus, including the more contagious variants.
A growing number of Alaska’s coronavirus cases, particularly in Anchorage, are attributed to the delta variant first identified in India in December and in Alaska in May. Alaska’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Joe McLaughlin, said this week that he predicted the delta variant will soon become the dominant coronavirus strain in the state.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the delta variant to be a “variant of concern” because there’s strong evidence of its increased transmissibility — available data shows it to be the most contagious strain yet. There’s also some emerging data that indicates the variant is more virulent than other strains, which means that it has a higher likelihood of causing more severe illness.
Alaska health experts continue to follow national guidance from the CDC that says masks are not needed in most situations if you’re fully vaccinated, even when you’re indoors. But some people — such as those who are immunocompromised, live with unvaccinated individuals or in congregate settings, or are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 — “may want to choose the extra protection that masks provide,” McLaughlin said.
By Wednesday, roughly 56% of the state’s population age 12 and older had received at least their first dose of the vaccine while 51% of all residents 12 and older were considered fully vaccinated. Among all states, Alaska ranked No. 28 in the country for most vaccinated residents per capita.
There were 24 people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 hospitalized around the state, including six who were on ventilators.
In total, 370 Alaskans and seven nonresidents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state last spring. Alaska’s death rate per capita remains among the lowest in the country, though the state’s size, health care system and other factors complicate national comparisons.
Of the 198 newly reported cases among Alaska residents, there were 112 from Anchorage, nine from Wasilla, nine from Juneau, seven from Eagle River, seven from Soldotna, seven from Hooper Bay, five from Palmer, five from Sitka, four from Fairbanks, four from Cordova, three from Seward, three from Sterling, two from Girdwood, two from Kenai, two from Homer, two from Kodiak and one each from Chugiak, Anchor Point, Ketchikan, Nome, Utqiagvik and North Pole. Among smaller communities not identified to protect residents’ privacy, three resident cases were from the Nome Census Area, along with one each from the Bethel Census Area, Hoonah-Angoon/Yakutat region, Kusilvak Census Area and the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area.
Another 16 cases involved nonresidents: seven in Anchorage, two in Wasilla and one each in Juneau, Soldotna, Ketchikan, Utqiagvik and Unalaska, plus two others with locations under investigation.
Of all the coronavirus tests completed in the state over the last week, 2.24% came back positive.