Most Alaskans who died of COVID had at least one underlying medical condition, state report says

An emergency sign outside a hospital.
Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Many of the people whose deaths were caused by or associated with COVID-19 in Alaska between January 2020 through September 2021 had at least one underlying medical condition, the state health department reported Wednesday.

The department, in an epidemiology bulletin, said 658 deaths between Jan. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021 were determined to be caused by or associated with COVID-19.

“Alaska’s death rates remain highest in males, older adult persons, and those with underlying medical conditions,” said the report.

Of the 551 individuals for which past medical history was known, 529 “had at least one underlying medical condition associated with increased risk for severe COVID-19,” the report said. Most of those — 417 — had one to three medical conditions. Cardiovascular diseases were the most common underlying condition.

The reported noted that the data is preliminary and could change.

It said Alaska’s COVID-19 death rate “increased substantially” following the emergence of the highly-contagious delta variant, which was first detected in the state in late May.

To date, since March 2020, about 145,900 resident cases of COVID-19 and about 850 resident deaths have been reported, according to the department.

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Department data shows a continuing downward trend in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Alaska following this fall’s major delta-driven surge. On Tuesday, the department reported 336 new COVID cases, 76 patients hospitalized with the virus and another death, a man from the Fairbanks area in his 60s.

Meanwhile, at least two cases of the omicron variant of COVID have been identified in the U.S.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said there are still many questions about the variant. Alaskans should remain vigilant, she said, but not become overwhelmed by omicron’s likely arrival in Alaska.

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Alaska Public Media’s Tegan Hanlon contributed to this report.

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