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Alaska reports more new COVID-19 cases among visitors as tourist season begins

Of Daily news from Anchorage

Updated: 2 Hours ago Released: 4 Hours ago

COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases reported to the Alaska Department of Health increased again over the past week. A new omicron subvariant driving cases in the Lower 48 accounted for nearly 5% of recently sequenced cases, state health officials say.

While the Department of Health’s weekly data doesn’t reflect home test results, officials say they should generally reflect broader pandemic trends.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services now only updates all of its COVID-19 data on Wednesdays. Here are some key takeaways from the latest available data:

• As of Wednesday, 44 COVID-positive patients were hospitalized in Alaska, up from 41 a week earlier but well below peaks at the start of the pandemic. Just over 3% of Alaskan hospitalized patients were COVID positive. One needed a ventilator.

• Among the regions with the highest per capita case rates this week were Denali County and several areas in the Southeast, including Ketchikan Gateway County, Skagway Township, Juneau City and County, Sitka City and County, and the Yakutat area plus Hoonah-Angoon – all at more than 500 cases per 100,000 population. This data represents reported cases and not home testing, but regional levels give a sense of larger case trends, officials say.

• The state health department on Wednesday reported 1,954 cases of COVID-19 in Alaska over a seven-day period, an 11% increase from last week. This included 279 cases in non-residents and 1,675 in residents, averaging almost 280 cases per day. According to state epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin primarily attributed to the start of the tourist season. Many of the reported cases involve cruise ship passengers, but the state is also seeing an increase in nonresident cases outside of Southeast Alaska ports and from industries other than tourism, McLaughlin said.

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• The state reported 18 more virus-related deaths, including one non-resident. Resident deaths included: five people from Anchorage, two from Ketchikan, one from a small community in the Copper River Census Area, one from Dillingham, one from Homer, one from a small community in Mat-Su County, one from a small Parish in the North Slope Borough, one from a small parish in the Northwest Arctic Borough, one from Palmer, one from Petersburg, one from Utqiagvik and one from Wasilla. Ten of the residents were in their 70s or older; three were in their 60s; two were in their 50s; and two were in their 40s.

• A total of 1,252 COVID-19 deaths among residents and 34 among foreigners have been reported since March 2020. Many of the deaths reported by the state in recent weeks occurred weeks to months earlier.

• Alaska’s seven-day new case rate per 100,000 people fell to the 22nd highest in the nation this week, according to a CDC tracker.

• According to Alaska’s Coronavirus Variant Dashboard, the vast majority of recently sequenced viruses were the stealth omicron subvariant BA.2, which appears to be more transmissible than other variants but is not more virulent or better at evading immune responses caused by vaccination or previous infection. But about 4.8% of the cases were another new Omicron subvariant – BA.2.12.1 – increasing the bottom 48 count.

• As of Wednesday, 65% of eligible Alaskans and military personnel had completed their basic immunization series. This number has been increasing very slowly in recent weeks. Just over 31% of eligible individuals are fully vaccinated with at least one booster shot.

• The FDA approved one additional Pfizer or Moderna booster shot for people age 50 and older and certain younger people with severely compromised immune systems if it has been at least four months since their last shot. For vaccination or booster vaccination information in Alaska, go to covidvax.alaska.gov.

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