Wednesday’s case count follows over a month of lower daily numbers. Alaska saw a peak in November and early December that strained hospital capacity. For the first time since September, daily case counts fell into the double digits twice last week.
Despite the lower case numbers throughout January, Alaska is still in the highest alert category based on the current per capita rate of infection.
The seafood industry has again been hit with multiple outbreaks among vessels and processing facilities in the Aleutian Islands. Some of the facilities temporarily closed just as the winter fishing season began.
Hospitalizations have fallen along with infection numbers, and are now less than a third of where they were during the peak in November and December. By Wednesday, there were 40 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state. Another two patients were believed to have the virus, and 10 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
Health officials are urging Alaskans to continue taking the pandemic seriously, even as case numbers have dropped. Scientists at the state’s public health labs confirmed last week that a highly contagious variant of the virus reached Alaska last month.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Wednesday, 98,265 — about 13% of Alaska’s population — had received at least their first vaccine shot, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard. That’s far above the national average of 8%.
Health care workers and nursing home staff and residents were the first people prioritized to receive the vaccine. In early January, the state said Alaskans older than 65 were now eligible, although appointment slots are limited and have filled quickly.
Thousands of new vaccine appointments went live on the state’s website last week, many of which are still available. Seniors and other eligible health care workers can call 907-646-3322 for assistance making an appointment.
Of the 178 cases announced among Alaska residents Wednesday, there were 45 in Anchorage plus six in Eagle River; 32 in Wasilla; 24 in Palmer; 14 in Fairbanks; five in Juneau; four in Tok; three in Ketchikan; three in North Pole; three in Kodiak; three in Sitka; two in Unalaska; two in Seward; one in Anchor Point; one in Homer; one in Nikiski; one in Soldotna; one in Valdez; one in Big Lake; one in Houston; one in Utqiagvik; one in Douglas; one in Petersburg; and one in Bethel.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were five resident cases in the Bethel Census Area; five in the Dillingham Census Area; three in the Copper River region; three in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; two in the Nome Census Area; one in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area; one in the Aleutians East Borough; and one in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were also 48 infections identified among nonresidents, including 23 in Anchorage; 15 in the Aleutians East Borough; five in the Aleutians West Census Area; one in Kodiak; one in the North Slope Borough; and three in unidentified parts 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.
Of the total COVID-19 tests completed statewide over the past week, 2.37% have come back positive.