COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Peninsula COVID case rates still elevated

Starting in December, several areas of the state saw significant spikes in COVID activity

The local case rate for COVID-19 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough remains high, a week after the State Department of Health reported that the local rate soared from around 44 cases per 100,000 residents on Jan. 20 to around 85 per 100,000 on Jan. 27.

Weekly cases of COVID-19 by region are reported via the department’s Respiratory Virus Snapshot. The snapshot was updated Wednesday to include data through Feb. 3. As of that day, the borough’s case rate has fallen to 67.9 per 100,000, still the second highest local rate since the department moved away from its Alaska COVID-19 Data Hub to the snapshot in September.

Archived data from the defunct hub isn’t directly comparable to the data being reported in the snapshot.

Starting in December, the snapshot shows that several areas of the state saw significant spikes in COVID activity, especially in Anchorage, Juneau and the Interior. That rise echoed a national trend reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention starting in November.

Though local numbers for the Kenai Peninsula Borough did increase in December, they did not rise so sharply as in other areas of the state and did not rise above the counts seen locally during a previous wave in the summer. The rise reported last week indicated COVID-19 activity in the borough greater than reported during the holiday months or during another wave of viral activity around September.

Regional case rates are reported as the number of cases per 100,000 residents. In November, the borough was reporting a rate as low as 8.5 cases per 100,000 residents. As of Jan. 20, that number had climbed to 44.1 — a week later the rate had reached 84.8.

The decline to 67.9 per 100,000 as of Feb. 3 leaves the borough’s case rate comparable to that being reported in Anchorage, which was 68.9 this week down from 96.2.

A statewide counter for lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska had previously indicated three consecutive weeks of declining activity statewide when the snapshot was updated last week. This week, additional cases have been added to recent weeks that instead show broadly steady COVID activity climbing upward throughout January — dropping this first week of February.

During the week ending Jan. 27, the snapshot says 687 COVID-19 cases were reported in Alaska. This most recent week, ending Feb. 3, 595 cases were reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long indicated that hospitalizations and deaths are a better indicator of COVID-19 activity than case counts — the state has not reported hospitalization data since the COVID-19 Data Hub was sunset in September, and stopped reporting deaths in March.

Nationally, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have been declining since early January, after similarly spiking in November. The CDC in January reported that roughly 2,000 people are dying each week from COVID-19 in the United States, though those counts were declining toward the end of the month — around 1,000 were reported the week of Jan. 27.

For more information about COVID-19, influenza or RSV in Alaska, visit health.alaska.gov.

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

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