COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19 hospitalizations hit low not seen since April

For the period of Oct. 12 to Oct. 18, 349 new COVID-19 cases were reported

According to the Alaska COVID-19 Data Hub, updated Wednesday, 22 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. No patients are on ventilators. This is down from last week, when DOH reported 40 patients were hospitalized. This is the fewest reported number of hospitalizations since April.

According to state data, as of Wednesday, two patients were hospitalized in the Gulf Coast region, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak and the Chugach census area. This is up from last week, when only one hospitalization was reported in the area.

The state reported no new resident deaths from COVID-19 this week. Deaths are reported in batches, as they are confirmed by the state. The last report of deaths came two weeks ago, when the state reported 27 deaths. The state did not specify a time frame during which those deaths occurred.

Due to the widespread availability of at-home COVID testing, officials say hospitalization and recent death data is a more effective indicator of the spread of the virus than case counts.

During a public health ECHO on Wednesday, held via Zoom and broadcast on Facebook, State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said that, in the United States as a whole, cases have been trending downward. But in the European Union, a new omicron wave is being observed, especially in Germany, France, Austria and Belgium.

McLaughlin said the U.S. tends to follow trends in Western Europe by “about three to four weeks,” so it is likely that the U.S. will soon experience that wave.

He said new omicron variants are being detected on a global scale, but though they may have an advantage over existing variants “with respect to replication and ability to infect,” these changes aren’t being viewed as significant enough to lead a wave of their own.

For the period of Oct. 12 to Oct. 18, 349 new COVID-19 cases were reported. The state reported no new nonresident cases. Case counts are down from last week, when officials reported 498 new cases for the period of Oct. 5 to Oct. 11. This is the fifth consecutive week of declining case counts statewide.

For the most recent week, 22 cases were reported in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. This is down from 34 last week.

In Homer, South Peninsula Hospital reports two hospitalizations and four emergency room visits related to COVID-19. The hospital processed 114 test swabs in the last week, of which five returned positive. They also administered 115 vaccines. Vaccines are available at the hospital on Thursdays and Fridays by appointment.

Officials recommend all eligible Alaskans be up to date on their COVID vaccines to minimize the infection’s impact on communities. Anyone 6 months and older is eligible for a primary vaccination series and everyone 5 and up can receive a booster.

An updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine is available in Alaska. These are designed to tackle both the original COVID-19 strain as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron.

According to data shared in the ECHO by McLaughlin, the BA.5 subvariant is being detected in 96.7% of tested cases in Alaska. This variant is directly targeted by the updated bivalent booster available around the state.

This new booster is available to eligible individuals at least two months after their last shot, whether that was a booster dose or their primary vaccine series.

Boosters are recommended whether or not a person has already contracted the virus.

As of Wednesday, 68.2% of Alaskans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 28.2% have received the first booster. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, only 23.6% are up to date on their vaccine.

Officials recommend that Americans get either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and boosters. The FDA has said the Johnson & Johnson shot should only be given to adults who cannot receive a different vaccine or who specifically request it.

For more information on vaccine eligibility, visit https://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/epi/id/pages/covid-19/vaccineinfo.aspx.

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DOH’s COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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