249 new COVID-19 cases reported in Alaska on Sunday

A map of Alaska in all red
A map from the state’s dashboard showing alert levels around the state. Red indicates more than 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. Fairbanks reported a case rate of about 30 on Sunday, Oct. 11. (Screenshot from DHSS COVID Dashboard)

Alaska saw back-to-back, record-setting COVID-19 case counts this weekend.

State health officials announced 232 new infections on Saturday, and another 249 cases on Sunday. That continues the trend of increasing case counts in Alaska that started about two weeks ago.

The high case numbers prompted warnings from officials around the state that contact tracing and hospital capacity could become stressed if the growing case counts continue.

That included warnings from Anchorage, which is where the majority of the weekend’s cases have been reported. On Sunday alone, the municipality recorded 143 cases.

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But while Anchorage has reported the most cases, both Fairbanks and the Northwest Arctic regions have reported higher rates of COVID-19 per capita. 

Hospital officials warned last week that Anchorage’s ICU capacity could come under strain in the near future, which could spell trouble for the rest of the state, which relies on its bed space.

So far, ICU capacity in Anchorage has remained at levels that are considered normal for this time of year, but Jared Kosin, president of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, said that could change soon. 

“If you’re trying to use capacity as a measure for the pandemic, you’re getting the wrong indicator. You have to look at community spread because ultimately it’s the output of the community spread that produces hospitalizations and then consumes capacity,” he said at a news conference on Thursday. 

Kosin said that, generally, there is a two-week delay between a rise in community spread and an increase in hospitalizations. 

Officials are urging Alaskans to wear face masks when unable to social distance, to get tested for COVID-19, and to get a flu shot to help keep hospitalizations down and keep bed space open. 

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.