Friday’s case count continues a trend of declining infection numbers after a peak in November and early December that caused officials to worry about hospital capacity. Twice this week, the daily case count fell into the double digits for the first time since September.
In response to the declining counts, acting Anchorage Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson announced this week that the city will soon relax its COVID-19 restrictions under a new emergency order that will allow more people in bars and restaurants, and ease limits on gathering sizes and organized sports.
Emergency Order 18 goes into effect at 8 a.m. Monday and will remain in place until it is revoked, Quinn-Davidson said Thursday.
Despite decreasing case numbers generally, Alaska remains in the highest alert category based on its current per capita rate of infection. And case numbers remain high and are increasing in Western Alaska, where some villages have experienced significant outbreaks.
Hospitalizations have also continued to fall and are now less than a third of where they were during the state’s peak in November and December. By Friday, there were 43 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, and five patient suspected of having the virus. Ten COVID-positive patients were on ventilators.
The vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Friday, 90,777 people — about 12% of Alaska’s population — had been vaccinated, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard. That’s nearly twice the national average of 7.2%.
Health care workers and nursing home staff and residents were the first people to receive the vaccination. In early January, the state said adults older than 65 were now eligible, although appointment slots are limited and have filled quickly.
Of the 176 cases reported among Alaska residents on Friday, there were 67 in Anchorage plus three in Chugiak and five in Eagle River; one in Homer; one in Seward; two in Soldotna; three in Kodiak; one in Cordova; one in Healy; 12 in Fairbanks plus two in North Pole; one in Tok; seven in Palmer; two in Sutton-Alpine; 25 in Wasilla; one in Utqiagvik; 17 in Juneau; two in Ketchikan; one in Sitka; one in Hoonah-Angoon; three in Unalaska; and eight in Bethel.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were in two in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; three in the Bethel Census Area; and five in the Kusilvak Census Area.
Eight nonresidents also tested positive: one in Anchorage, one in Unalaska, and six in an unidentified region of the state.
While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only one person.
The state’s data doesn’t specify whether people testing positive for COVID-19 have symptoms. More than half of the nation’s infections are transmitted from asymptomatic people, according to CDC estimates.
Over the past week, 2.72% of all tests completed statewide came back positive.