‘A steep downward trajectory’: Alaska sees 50% drop in reported COVID cases this week

A woman receives a nasal swab Covid test outside of the Denali Federal Credit Union Operations Center.
A woman receives a nasal swab COIVD test outside of the Denali Federal Credit Union Operations Center. (Adam Nicely/Alaska Public Media)

COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop in Alaska. 

The state health department on Wednesday reported 4,518 cases between Feb. 9 and Feb. 15. That’s almost exactly half the number from the previous week, which saw about 9,000 reported cases.

State epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said Alaska’s downward trend follows other states’ decline in case counts.

“Our peak occurred later than in many other states, maybe a little bit later and so we’re seeing higher activity than in other states in general, but we’re definitely on a steep downward trajectory which is great,” he said at a public health presentation Wednesday.

The state health department reported 4,518 cases between Feb. 9 and 15. (Screenshot from the DHSS COVID dashboard.)

The state health department reported 389 COVID-19 cases on Monday and 461 on Tuesday. Those numbers don’t include positive at-home tests.

The department reported 27 COVID deaths on Wednesday, none of which occurred in the last week. 

Thirty percent of the state’s population has tested positive for COVID so far, according to health officials. But a low percentage of Alaskans who do test positive end up in the hospital or die. That could be due to a variety of factors, McLaughlin said, including age.

“Here in Alaska, we have a younger age stratification than we see in other states across the nation in general, so that’s probably a big driving force,” he said. “We also have fewer per capita nursing homes and number of people in nursing homes.”

Hospitalizations are also decreasing, though not as quickly as case numbers. In Anchorage, the number of COVID beds occupied during the last week has stayed around 60. There are 25 adult ICU beds available in the state. Just one of them is in Anchorage.

McLaughlin also shared data that shows unvaccinated people are 8.8 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are up-to-date on vaccinations, meaning they’ve received two doses along with any boosters they’re eligible for. 

By Wednesday, 69.5% of adults had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 26.5% had been boosted, according to the health department. The University of Alaska Fairbanks also announced Wednesday that it would host free, public COVID-19 vaccination clinics on campus on Thursday and Friday.

McLaughlin said N95 masks are available for free at locations throughout Alaska, including grocery stores and pharmacies.

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