Alaska reported 300 new infections and no deaths related to COVID-19 on Saturday, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Saturday’s case count is part of a slight uptick in cases in the last few days following a trend of lower cases reported in recent weeks. State health officials have expressed cautious optimism about the overall decline, but also worry that holiday-related travel and celebrations could drive case numbers up again.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations remain lower than they were in November. The number of tests completed statewide in recent weeks has also been down.
In total, 214 Alaskans and one nonresident with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began. (Nine of the resident deaths were reported Friday, though only one had occurred recently.) Alaska’s overall death rate per capita is among the lowest in the country, but officials say the state’s vast geography and vulnerable health care system make it difficult to compare with other states.
The state was promised more than 60,000 doses when Alaska received its first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December, and hospital workers, emergency personnel, and residents and staff at long-term care facilities were prioritized to receive the first doses. State officials said they expect more than 50,000 doses to arrive this month and on Thursday announced that the next group of people eligible to receive the vaccine would include Alaskans over 65, followed by “frontline essential workers.”
By Saturday morning, 13,772 Alaskans had received vaccinations, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard, which had not been updated since midweek. Health officials say they expect the pace of vaccine distribution will pick up in next month, and that the vaccine dashboard will be updated more regularly soon, too.
Around the state, 71 Alaskans with COVID-19 were hospitalized as of Thursday and another six were suspected to have the virus. Just over 8% of adults in Alaska hospitals have COVID-19. In Anchorage, where the sickest patients are often treated, there were just 10 intensive care unit beds available out of 69.
Of the 298 infections reported Saturday among Alaska residents, there were 92 in Anchorage, plus 20 in Eagle River and five in Chugiak; 47 in Fairbanks plus seven in North Pole; 21 in Wasilla and 12 in Palmer; nine in Soldotna, five in Kenai, two in Homer and two in Sterling; eight in Juneau; seven in Utqiagvik; five in Kodiak; five in Bethel; two in Nome; one in Kotzebue; and one in Unalaska.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were 20 in the Bethel Census Area; 11 in the Kusilvak Census Area; five in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; four in the Dillingham Census Area; two in the southern Kenai Peninsula Borough; one in the Fairbanks North Star Borough; one in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; one in the Nome Census Area; one in the Northwest Arctic Borough; and one in the Yakutat plus Hoonah Angoon region.
There were also two cases reported among nonresidents in Unalaska.
While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only one person.
It is not clear how many of the people who tested positive for the virus were showing symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about a third of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.
The statewide test positivity rate as of Saturday was 5.22% over a seven-day average. Health experts say anything above 5% can indicate inadequate testing and potentially widespread community transmission. The state reached a peak of over 9% test positivity in mid-November.