COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Hospitalizations down; state to discontinue weekly COVID summaries

COVID-19 summary information will continue to be included in the Alaska COVID-19 and Influenza Weekly Case Update

According to data available on the State Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, updated Wednesday, 37 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19. No patients are on ventilators. This is a decrease from last week, when DOH reported that 66 patients were hospitalized. At that time, no patients were reported to be on ventilators.

During a public health ECHO on Wednesday, held via Zoom and broadcast on Facebook, State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin announced that the weekly Alaska COVID-19 Summary — distributed via email and on social media — will be discontinued. Next week will be the final release of the summary.

COVID-19 summary information will continue to be included in the Alaska COVID-19 and Influenza Weekly Case Update, which is distributed on Fridays, but that release discusses trends and does not include the wrap-up of valuable statistics included in its predecessor.

COVID-19 Updates will continue to be published by The Peninsula Clarion on Wednesdays using information from the state COVID-19 dashboard, which is still set to be updated with fresh numbers weekly.

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

During the ECHO, McLaughlin said that nationwide, as well as in Alaska, cases and hospitalizations are trending downward.

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 update was last week, when the state reported 25 deaths that took place anywhere between the start of the year and the end of August. So far, no deaths have been confirmed for September.

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.

For the period of Sept. 14 to Sept. 20, 1,111 new COVID-19 cases were reported, with 646 being Alaska residents. The number of statewide cases is down from last week, when officials reported 1,494 new cases for the period of Sept. 7 to Sept. 13.

For the most recent week, 58 cases were reported in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

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.

Starting last week, an updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine is available in Alaska. These are available to individuals who are 12 years of age or older, and are designed to tackle both the original COVID-19 strain as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron.

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.

During the Wednesday ECHO, Epidemiology Specialist Sarah Aho said that so far 8,000 doses of the new bivalent vaccine have been administered. The state had previously reported that 38,000 doses of the vaccine were ordered.

They also said shipping was proceeding slower than expected for doses of Moderna’s updated vaccine. Pfizer vaccines are readily available around the state, but Moderna vaccines will likely become more available in the coming weeks.

As of Wednesday, 68.1% of Alaskans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 28.3% have received the first booster. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, only 23.5% of residents have received a booster dose, according to state data.

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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