Alaska saw fewer nonresident cases of COVID-19 this week than it has in more than a month, but the disease continues to spread among residents primarily through community and close contact transmission.
Because of the significant decrease in nonresident cases, Alaska saw a lower weekly total of new COVID-19 cases this week than it has since the beginning of July, according to data reported by the state’s Department of Health and Social Services.
Despite this decrease in the rate of new cases, the rate of hospitalizations and deaths, as well as the number of concurrent hospitalizations and number of new resident cases, has remained steady in comparison to previous weeks.
From Aug. 16 to Aug. 22, Alaska saw 434 new cases of COVID-19, for an average of 62 cases per day. This includes 418 residents and 16 nonresidents, with the majority of new cases occurring in Anchorage. The Kenai Peninsula Borough saw 47 new cases among residents in the last seven days, which was enough to put schools on the central peninsula in the high-risk category, delaying the start of school until Sept. 8. There are currently 249 active resident cases on the peninsula, which includes 76 cases in Soldotna and 58 cases in Kenai.
There were 20 new hospitalizations reported statewide this week. As of Saturday, there are 41 COVID-positive patients hospitalized as well as another five patients who are under investigation. Of those hospitalized cases, six who are confirmed positive with COVID-19 are being treated on a ventilator.
Hospitalization data is based on numbers from 27 individual health facilities across Alaska, who send their occupancy information to the Alaska State Hospital Nursing Home Association. Not all 27 facilities report their numbers each day, however, and Aug. 17 was the only day this week when all 27 facilities reported their numbers to ASHNHA, according to DHSS data.
There were three new deaths reported this week among Alaska residents who had tested positive for COVID-19. The latest death was first reported on Saturday. Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink has explained in previous press conferences that deaths are reported once residency and demographic data for the deceased has been confirmed and not in real-time. The latest three deaths occurred on Aug. 1, Aug. 6 and Aug. 16, according to the data currently available on Alaska’s Coronavirus Response Hub.
There were a total of 24,772 COVID-19 tests conducted statewide this week. The seven-day average positivity rate decreased from 2.83% on Aug. 16 to 1.86% on Aug. 22. On the peninsula, 1,194 tests were conducted for an average of 171 tests per day. At 3.44%, the positivity rate for tests conducted on the Kenai Peninsula in the last seven days is significantly higher than the statewide average.
Alaska’s weekly COVID-19 update, which was published by DHSS on Aug. 20, stated that the majority of new cases continue to be among residents in their 20s and 30s, and that transmission between Alaskans at social gatherings, within families, at community events, churches and bars has significantly contributed to the rise in cases.
Alaskans are encouraged to continue to avoid large gatherings, wear face coverings in public, keep 6 feet of distance from nonhousehold members and practice good hand hygiene in order to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
On the central peninsula, testing is available at Capstone Family Clinic, K-Beach Medical, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Central Peninsula Urgent Care, Peninsula Community Health Services, Urgent Care of Soldotna, the Kenai Public Health Center and Odyssey Family Practice. Call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400 for information on testing criteria for each location.
In Homer, testing continues to be available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at South Peninsula Hospital’s main entrance as well as through SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228.
In Ninilchik, NTC Community Clinic is providing testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The testing is only for those traveling, symptomatic, needing testing for medical procedures, or with a known exposure after seven days. Only 20 tests will be offered per day. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.
In Seward, testing is available at Providence Seward, Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and North Star Health Clinic.
This article is based on data reported by various state and local agencies from Aug. 16 to Aug. 22.