In total, 96 Alaskans with the virus have died since the start of the pandemic, and Alaska’s per capita death rate has remained relatively low.
Three of the deaths occurred recently, involving an Anchorage woman in her 20s, an Anchorage man in his 90s and a Fairbanks man in his 80s, the state health department said. DHSS said the fourth death, reported through a death certificate review process, involved a Juneau man in his 80s.
As of Wednesday, there were 101 people with the coronavirus currently in Alaska hospitals, with seven patients on ventilators. There were 16 additional people in hospitals who were suspected of having COVID-19.
As of Wednesday, all regions of the state were at the highest alert level, meaning widespread community transmission is occurring.
While the daily COVID-19 numbers continue to surge, they don’t capture all of the state’s most recent cases. As case counts rise, public health workers are behind on entering the data, Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with the state health department, said in an interview Wednesday. The lag was first reported by Alaska Public Media.
Public health workers at the state receive faxes, phone calls and electronic reports from labs with test results. They confirm it’s a COVID-19 case and enter it into the state’s database. That gets more complicated with case numbers increasing, Castrodale said.
“The volume of reports have increased and we have just not been able to keep pace with processing all those,” Castrodale said.
It’s hard to know exactly how far behind the state is in terms of data entry, she said. A stack of paper results might contain some people who have already tested positive and were counted in the statewide database the week before and wouldn’t get counted again. However, she said, if they were able to process every single case each day, the numbers would probably be 25% to 50% higher.
“It’s tricky to be held to that (estimate), but I think, again, the take-home is: We’re not plateauing, we’re not slowing down, we’re getting more reports each day,” Castrodale said.
As cases accelerate, state health officials are trying to make processing more efficient, and they’re hiring for more staff to work in data entry.
“But at the end of the day, there are only so many hands and so many bodies that can get that work done,” she said.
All of the cases will end up getting entered, she said.
Of the 486 new cases among residents reported by the state Wednesday, there were 215 in Anchorage, plus 13 in Eagle River, one in Chugiak and one in Girdwood; 46 in Wasilla; 27 in Soldotna; 21 in Kenai; 20 in Bethel; 18 in Palmer; 12 in Delta Junction; 12 in Juneau; 11 in Utqiagvik; seven in Fairbanks; six in North Pole; five in Nikiski; five in Kodiak; four in Big Lake; three in Sterling; three in Kotzebue; three in Sitka; two in Seward; one in Valdez; one in Healy; one in Willow; one in Nome; one in Metlakatla; and one in Unalaska.
Among communities with populations smaller than 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were 27 resident cases in the Bethel Census Area; five in the Dillingham Census Area; five in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; three in the southern Kenai Peninsula Borough; three in the North Slope Borough; one in the Aleutians East Borough; and one in the Kusilvak Census Area.
There were also seven new nonresident cases: two in Anchorage; two in Juneau; one in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; one in Fairbanks; and one in the Northwest Arctic Borough.
Of the new cases, it is not reported how many patients were showing symptoms of the virus when they tested positive. While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department only represents one person.
The state’s testing positivity as of Wednesday was 8.45% over a seven-day rolling average. A positivity rate over 5% can indicate high community transmission and not enough testing, health officials have said.
— Annie Berman and Morgan Krakow