Alaska on Thursday reported 986 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths and a another slight uptick in virus hospitalizations statewide.
The two COVID-19 deaths newly reported by the state involved two men from Fairbanks, one in his 50s and one in his 70s.
State health officials said this week that from a broad perspective, cases around the state appear to be plateauing. They say weekly trends are better indicators than daily counts, which can fluctuate based on when cases are reported by labs.
On Wednesday, Alaska reported over 1,200 new cases after reporting under 500 a day earlier. Over the last week, there was a 9% increase in total cases compared to the week before. That increase follows the prior week’s 32% decrease in cases.
“We were hoping to see a bit more of a downward trend, but unfortunately it’s more of a flat trend,” Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, told reporters on Thursday. “Overall, we continue to have a lot of cases in Alaska.”
Alaska continues to have the highest seven-day COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were 208 people hospitalized with COVID-19 by Thursday, compared to 204 on Wednesday and roughly 180 last week — a reflection of the continued burden on hospitals around the state as the delta variant continues to spread through communities.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are considered a lagging indicator, which means they typically follow a few weeks behind spikes in cases. But Alaska health officials said Thursday that during this latest surge, hospitalizations appear to have more closely paralleled rises and plateaus in cases than they have in the past.
That could reflect a shift in when people are opting to get tested, said Anna Frick, an epidemiologist with Alaska’s state health department.
“Lately, we’ve seen a fair few people who really did sort of arrive at the hospital, got their first test and were already very ill,” Frick said. “Earlier in the pandemic, we’d seen a lot more people who got tested, and then were at home for a few days, and then as they began to decline, they came in.”
Twenty health care facilities in Alaska have activated crisis standards of care, though not all are operting in crisis mode and any decisions to prioritize treatment are fluid and made on a daily basis.
Alaska’s overall death rate is among the lowest in the country since the pandemic began, and Alaska currently falls in the bottom third among U.S. states for its death rate per 100,000 over the past week. At least 592 Alaskans and 22 nonresidents have died with coronavirus infections.
The state also had a 10.75% positivity rate based on a weeklong rolling average. Epidemiologists say anything above 5% can indicate widespread transmission and not enough testing.