COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update

This data summary covers COVID-19 in Alaska from Friday, June 26th through Thursday, July 2nd, 2020. 

 Background

The Alaska COVID-19 Weekly Case Update will be finalized every weekend with data from the previous week and the report will be published by the following Wednesday. Data are continually updated on the AK DHSS Data Hub, which reflects the most current case counts. This summary presents data from the previous week and is a snapshot of the information available on known cases at the time. 

Testing update

By Thursday evening, 17,358 tests had been conducted this week in Alaska, for a total of 120,208. Test positivity rate for this week was 1.47%, meaning around 15 in every 1000 tests performed came back positive; almost double last week’s rate of 0.8%. While not all positive tests represent distinct positive cases, since occasionally patients with COVID-19 are retested, retesting did not significantly affect the positivity rate this week.

 New cases

This week saw 228 new cases in Alaskans and 55 in nonresidents, for a total of 1,063 and 223 respectively. 4 Alaskans required hospitalization this week for COVID-19, for a total of 71 since the epidemic began. One additional death was reported this week. By convention, deaths are counted based on the residency of the patient rather than where they contracted the virus. 

 Communities affected this week 

New cases were found in Alaskans who are residents of the following communities:

·         Anchorage (99), Chugiak (1), and Eagle River (7), for a total of 107 new cases in the Anchorage Municipality

·         Seward (21), Soldotna (4), Homer (1) and North Kenai Peninsula Borough (1), for a total of 27 new cases in the Kenai Peninsula Borough

·         Fairbanks (24) and North Pole (3), for a total of 27 new cases in the Fairbanks North Star Borough

·         Wasilla (21), Palmer (9), Willow (6), Big Lake (2), Houston (1), for a total of 39 new cases in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough

·         Tok (5) and Delta Junction (2), for 7 total in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area

·         Nome (2) and one in a smaller community, for a total of 3 new cases in the Nome Census Area

·         Valdez (1) and two in a smaller community or communities in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, for a total of 3 in the Census Area. 

·         Juneau (3)

·         Bethel Census Area (2)

·         Kodiak (1)

·         Sitka (1)

·         Northwest Arctic Borough (1)

·         Ketchikan Gateway Borough (1)

·         Kusilvak Census Area (1)

·         Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area (1)

 How Alaskans acquired COVID-19

DHSS monitors how people most likely got the virus. In green in the plot below are Alaska residents who acquired COVID-19 by traveling to other states or countries. In March, a substantial proportion of our cases were related to Alaskans returning from elsewhere, while in April and May, fewer Alaskans traveled. Since June, as travel has started to increase, cases in Alaskans related to travel have begun to occur more regularly. 

In blue below are cases where Alaskans got COVID-19 from a known contact. These are people who did not leave the state, but we could trace their illness back to the person they got it from. The goal is for contact tracing to identify each of these cases where someone got it from someone else they had contact with so they can let all other contacts of both people know to quarantine. As contact tracing expanded in May, more cases from contacts were identified.

In red, however, are cases where Alaskans got COVID-19 and contact tracing was not able to establish a clear source. This demonstrates that there are other cases in our communities that we have not found yet. 

Grey bars show the cases where the investigation has not yet concluded. Since the workload for contact tracers has more than doubled in the last few weeks, they are working as fast as possible to identify and quarantine contacts. Alaskans can help contact tracers move faster and prevent more cases by keeping their contact list small, keeping a diary of who they are in close contact with (defined as within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more), wearing cloth face coverings when around any non-household members or in public, and responding promptly to being contacted. 

 Case distributions

The majority of COVID-19 cases have been found in adults aged 20-39. Gender distribution has been equal, with about half in males and half in females. 

A majority of cases have been seen in non-Hispanic white Alaskans, although race and ethnicity information for many cases has not yet been reported. Races and ethnicities of cases, when known, are within a few percent of the proportion of those races and ethnicities in Alaska’s overall population, meaning that at this time a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 in one particular racial or ethnic group is not apparent. However, since this information is unavailable for more than a quarter of recorded cases, it is difficult to draw conclusions from these data. 

 Nonresident cases

Of the 55 nonresident cases identified this week, 14 were in the Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula Borough, 10 were in Kenai Peninsula Borough, 7 were in the Dillingham Census Area, 8 were in Anchorage Municipality, 4 in Fairbanks North Star Borough, 3 in Sitka City and Borough, 2 in Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, and one each in Haines Borough, Juneau City and Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Petersburg Borough, and Valdez-Cordova Census Area. 

Of these, 24 were associated with the seafood industry, 7 with tourism or visiting purposes, and 4 with the mining industry. 

 Hospital capacity

Hospitals remain below capacity, with ventilators and ICU beds available. While 71 Alaskans have required hospitalization, there has not yet been a sharp increase in need for hospitalization with the rise in cases in June. However, other states have seen that it can be several weeks before people who get COVID-19 become ill enough to need hospitalization, so DHSS will monitor hospital utilization closely in the coming weeks. 

Recovered cases

18 Alaskans recovered from COVID-19 this week, for a total of 539, or 51% of total cases. 

 Epidemic curve

This analysis projects growth or reduction in cases predicted in the coming weeks based on the growth of cases in recent weeks. The most recent 7 days (grey bars) are not included because there can be a delay in reporting data. This model assumes exponential growth or reduction in cases and can be a useful tool to visualize how quickly cases are increasing or decreasing. This curve does not project what might happen if more people start wearing masks or increase physical distancing; it assumes Alaskans and visitors to Alaska do not change their behavior. The dotted line is the average prediction, and the grey shaded area is estimated error for the predicted rise in cases. Currently, cases are predicted to double about every 14 days. 

For a full description of methods, visit https://coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com/

Tourism, visitors and airport testing

This week saw 18,539 travelers screened at airports entering Alaska, and 6,814 (37%) opted to be tested on entry. The other options available to them were a 14 day quarantine or providing proof of another test performed within 72 hours of landing in Alaska. 7,662 (41%) tested prior to travel, while 2,872 travelers selected the 14-day quarantine default option. The remaining travelers provided proof that they had already recovered from COVID-19, were critical infrastructure workers following community protection plans for testing and isolation established by their employer and reviewed by DHSS, or were Alaskans returning within 24 hours of leaving the state. 32 new cases were discovered through airport arrival testing this week, for a test positivity rate of 0.47%. Of the 55 cases in nonresidents this week, 7 were linked with tourism or visiting, including 2 in Anchorage, 3 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 1 in Valdez and 1 in Dillingham. 

Seafood industry

Of 55 nonresident cases total identified this week, 24 are in workers in the seafood industry, including 14 in Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula Borough, 6 in Dillingham Census Area, 3 in Sitka City and Borough and 1 in Aleutians West Census Area. All nonresidents with COVID-19 are quarantined and contact tracing is ongoing for these cases. 

 Other industries

4 new cases were found among workers in the mining industry in Southeast Fairbanks Census Area (2), Fairbanks North Star Borough (1), and Juneau City and Borough (1). 4 additional cases were associated with nonresident workers in industries other than seafood or mining.

 Reporting of deaths due to COVID-19

15 Alaskans are reported as having died from COVID-19 or with COVID-19 significantly contributing to their cause of death, including one death that occurred in June and was newly reported this week. Although several of these deaths occurred in Alaskans who acquired the disease in another state and never traveled to Alaska during their illness, they are counted as deaths in our reporting by national convention. In accordance with national standards, case counts for Alaska reflect known cases in all Alaska residents, regardless of where they acquired the infection or where it was discovered. This provides consistency and avoids cases and deaths being double-counted between states. Cases found in Alaska that are not among Alaska residents are reported under nonresident cases. 

 Data timeliness and accuracy

Weekly summaries are published early the following week because that gives the state public health workforce time to collect data, verify accuracy, make sure cases have not been counted in multiple places and verify patient identities. This summary is designed to accurately summarize the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub dashboard, which displays same-day or next-day data. The dashboard data occasionally changes as new information is received or as cases are reclassified once verification takes place, since this process takes time. Weekly summaries reflect our most current and complete knowledge about cases in the previous week. 

Further information

Please see the State of Alaska COVID-19 information page for more information about the virus and how individuals and businesses can protect themselves and others from transmission. 

For the most up-to-date case information, see the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub dashboard. Some data may change as more information comes to light through contact tracing and other public health work. 

For questions regarding DHSS COVID response, including mandates and alerts, email covidquestions@alaska.gov. Since DHSS is experiencing a high volume of inquiries, the Frequently Asked Questions webpage can often be the quickest route to an answer regarding testing, travel, health mandates and other COVID-19 information. 

For DHSS media inquiries, please contact clinton.bennett@alaska.gov.

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