Alaska’s COVID hospitalizations hit another record high

A public health worker in a tent outside Juneau International Airport bags a freshly collected nasal swab for COVID-19 testing.
A public health worker in a tent outside Juneau International Airport bags a freshly collected nasal swab for COVID-19 testing on Sept. 1, 2020. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alaska hit a new record again on Wednesday, as hospitals around the state reported being at or near capacity.

The state also reported 801 new coronavirus infections. That’s the second highest daily case count since the pandemic began a year and a half ago, only topped by a day in early December.

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, there were 161 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus on Wednesday, the most ever. And 20 of those are reportedly breathing with the help of ventilators.

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In a conference call, state health officials renewed calls to Alaskans to get vaccinated, wear masks and practice social-distancing, as the virus’s highly contagious delta variant drives up case numbers.

State epidemiologist Louisa Castrodale said, prior to delta, unvaccinated Alaskans were 16 times more likely to be hospitalized than those fully vaccinated. And despite an apparent waning immunity among the vaccinated, she said, the vaccines are still helping.

“As delta has sort of taken hold, there’s still an incredible protection that’s given with vaccination to that risk of hospitalization, but it’s a little bit — it’s muted, you know, it’s only eight times,” Castrodale said. “But eight times the risk of hospitalization is still pretty impressive.”

There have also been 10 deaths from the coronavirus reported since the weekend, with four in data updates on Wednesday and six on Tuesday, including an Anchorage woman in her 20s and another in her 30s.

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Alaska Native Medical Center and Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage were at capacity for adult ICU patients on Wednesday, and Providence Alaska Medical Center was listed as near capacity.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital was at capacity and Mat-Su Regional Medical Center was near capacity.

The 801 cases reported Wednesday include 765 Alaskans, and the rest are nonresidents who tested positive in the state. The infections are spread throughout Alaska, with the most, 276, in Anchorage.

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Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him Read more about Caseyhere

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