Detection of COVID-19 in Alaska: 200th death and 217 new infections reported Tuesday

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Tuesday’s numbers followed the low of 126 cases on Monday, which is part of a trend of fewer cases reported in recent weeks following a surge in November to early December. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are also declining. Health officials say an order in Anchorage played a role in the deterioration, as did voluntary action by people in the state.

Death is an indicator left behind, meaning it often occurs after an increase in cases, and half of Alaska’s virus deaths have been reported in the past six weeks.

State data showed the new death Tuesday was from an Anchorage resident. A total of 200 Alaskans and one non-resident have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began here in March. Alaska’s overall death toll per capita is among the lowest in the country, but officials believe the state’s large geography and vulnerable health care system make it difficult to compare with other states.

Alaska received its first consignment of COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December. Healthcare workers in the hospital, emergency personnel and residents and staff at long-term care facilities were prioritized to receive the first doses. A state committee will vote Tuesday on who should include the next round of vaccinations.

By Tuesday, 72 Alaskans had been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, and it is suspected that nine more had the virus. Nearly 9% of adults in Alaska hospitals have COVID-19.

Hospitalizations have been declining nationwide over the past few weeks. In Anchorage, where the sickest patients are treated regularly, there were 18 intensive care units out of 68 available on Tuesday.

Of the 210 infestations reported in Alaska residents Tuesday, 64 were in Anchorage, plus two in Chugiak and 33 in Eagle River; one in Kenai; one in Seward; three in Soldotna; eight in Kodiak; 23 in Fairbanks plus six in the North Pole; two in Delta Junction; one in Tok; one in Big Lake; 13 in Palmer; 28 in Wasilla; one in Utqiagvik; three in Ketchikan; one in Craig; one in Sitka; three in Bethel; and one in Dillingham.

Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named for privacy, there were two in the northern Kenai Peninsula district; three in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; one in the Nome census area; one in the Noordhellingstad; one in the Northwest Arctic District; two in the Bethel census area; and four in the Dillingham census area.

Seven cases were reported in non-residents, including four in Anchorage and three in an unidentified region of the state.

Although people can be tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only one person.

It is not clear how many people who tested positive for the virus show symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

The positive percentage of the whole world test from Tuesday was 4.56% above an average of 7 days. Health experts say anything above 5% could indicate inadequate testing and possibly widespread community transmission. The state peaked at more than 9% in mid-November.