The department no longer updates its coronavirus dashboard on the weekend or on holidays. Tuesday’s update includes cases that would’ve been reported over the weekend and on the Presidents Day holiday Monday.
The six deaths were all identified through reviews of death certificates over the past several months, the state health department said Tuesday. The deaths involved a Wasilla woman in her 60s plus five Alaskans in their 80s or older, including a woman from Utqiaġvik, a man from Bethel, a woman from Anchorage, a man from Palmer and a man from Wasilla.
State health officials also said a previously reported death of an Anchorage resident was removed from the tally of Alaskan COVID-19 deaths “upon final review of the death certificate.”
Case counts in Alaska have been steadily declining over the last two months, following a peak in November and early December that strained hospital capacity before leveling off. Hospitalizations in Alaska have declined along with cases, and are now less than a quarter of where they were during the peak in November and December.
By Tuesday, there were 28 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, including two who were on ventilators. Another 15 patients were believed to have the virus.
Alaska’s public health disaster declaration expired on Sunday, potentially throwing many parts of the state’s response to the pandemic — from large vaccine clinics to telehealth options for those receiving care Outside — into confusion.
The COVID-19 vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December. By Tuesday, 128,304 people — over 17% of Alaska’s total 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 11.5%.
Among Alaskans 16 and older, 22.7% had received at least one dose of vaccine by Tuesday. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use for people ages 16 and older, and Moderna’s has been cleared for use in people 18 and older.
Health care workers and nursing home staff and residents were the first people prioritized to receive the vaccine. Alaskans older than 65 became eligible in early January, and the state further widened eligibility criteria last week to include educators, people 50 and older with a high-risk medical condition, front-line essential workers 50 and older and people living or working in congregate settings like shelters and prisons.
Those eligible to receive the vaccine can visit covidvax.alaska.gov or anchoragecovidvaccine.org, or call 907-646-3322 — the number is staffed 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekends — to sign up and to confirm eligibility.
Despite the lower case numbers throughout January, Alaska is still in the highest alert category based on the current per capita rate of infection, and public health officials continue to encourage Alaskans to keep up with personal virus mitigation efforts like hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing. A highly contagious variant of the virus reached Alaska last month.
Of the 427 cases announced since Friday among Alaska residents, there were 137 in Anchorage, 10 in Eagle River, six in Chugiak and one in Girdwood; 100 in Wasilla; 45 in Palmer; 31 in Unalaska; 22 in Fairbanks; 16 in North Pole; nine in Kodiak; four in Dillingham; four in Juneau; four in Ketchikan; three in Utqiagvik; two in Skagway; two in Big Lake; two in Seward; one in Kenai; one in Soldotna; one in Willow; one in Kotzebue; one in Sitka; one in Salcha; and one in Hooper Bay.
Among communities with populations under 1,000 not named to protect privacy, there were seven resident cases in the Bethel Census Area; five in the Kusilvak Census Area; three in the Copper River Census Area; two in the Northwest Arctic Borough; one in the southern Kenai Peninsula Borough; one in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough; one in the Yukon Koyukuk Census Area; one in the Nome Census Area; and one in the combined Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs.
The state also reported 49 cases among nonresidents since Friday: 37 in Unalaska, five in the North Slope Borough, two in the Aleutians East Borough, one in Anchorage, one in Kodiak, one in Juneau and two in unidentified regions 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.