Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update for December 27, 2020 – January 2, 2021

Brief status report

  • The daily growth rate of viral transmission in Alaska reversed from 0.26% to -4.2% over the past three weeks, indicating a general downward trajectory during that time period. However, in the last week the trajectory has flattened out and test positivity rose slightly, raising concern for an uptick in transmission.
  • Every Alaskan who chooses to wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, and avoid indoor gatherings contributes to the response effort.
  • The statewide effort to provide every Alaskan with the option of receiving a vaccine as soon as supply allows is ongoing. Two vaccines for COVID-19 have received FDA emergency use authorization and are currently being distributed in Alaska.
  • Currently eligible groups for vaccination include those in Phase 1a: healthcare workers and residents in nursing homes. Groups in Phase 1b, including Alaskans age 65 and older, are not yet eligible to register for the vaccine. The first tier in Phase 1b, which is Alaskans aged 65 years and older, may register for vaccination starting January 6 at noon and vaccinations for that tier will begin January 11. Other groups in Phase 1b may not register at this time but may register as soon as vaccination opens for their phase and tier. All registration for vaccines should go through the registration system on covidvax.alaska.gov, which also has an eligibility tool for any Alaskan unsure of when they can receive the vaccine. All updates on phases and tiers will be posted on that website; Alaskans are encouraged to check it frequently.
  • Two new variants of the virus causing COVID-19 have been reported – one in the United Kingdom (UK) and one in South Africa. CDC is monitoring the new variants.  The UK variant appears to spread faster but does not appear to cause more severe disease. As of 1/4/2021, several cases of the UK variant have been confirmed in the United States. None have yet been found in Alaska.   
  • CDC guidelines recommend regular testing for critical infrastructure workers and other groups at higher risk for COVID-19, even if they are asymptomatic. While testing should continue to be prioritized for people with symptoms and those with known exposures to COVID-19, expanding screening testing to many groups, including restaurant and grocery store workers, school staff, people who recently attended large gatherings, first responders, and healthcare workers is recommended. While these recommendations are not requirements for testing, DHSS is available to consult on the logistics of expanding testing.
  • Alaskans should get tested immediately at the first sign of any symptoms. Tests work best when obtained promptly after symptoms start. Testing early helps people know if they are positive quickly and helps prompt them to take immediate precautions to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
  • Most Alaskans get COVID-19 from a friend, family member, or coworker. Many Alaskans who are diagnosed with COVID-19 report that they went to social gatherings, community events, church services, and other social venues while they were contagious but before they knew they had the virus. Alaskans should avoid indoor gatherings with non-household members, avoid crowds, wear masks when around non-household members, and stay 6 feet from anyone not in their household.
  • As cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to increase across the United States, the safest way to connect with others is electronically. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.
  • Specific requirements for testing and strict social distancing apply to anyone returning to Alaska or traveling between the road/ferry system and smaller communities within Alaska. 
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Case trends and predictions

  • 2,055 new cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 10% increase from the week before and reflects continued high-level community transmission throughout much of Alaska.
  • Case rates remained similar to the previous week in many regions of Alaska. The Yukon-Kuskokwim (YK) Region saw a substantial increase from a 14-day average daily case rate of 73 to 144. Acceleration in the YK Region is high, with a seven-day average daily case rate of 229. Moderate decreases in case rates were seen in the Northwest, Kenai and Southwest Regions. All regions of Alaska other than the Northern and Southern Southeast Regions continue to have high community transmission and are at a high alert level.
  • The estimated daily growth rate as of January 4, 2021 is -4.2% and new cases are expected to halve every 16 days based on current modeling.  
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Vaccines status update

  • The State of Alaska is working with federal, local, Tribal, and military partners to ensure that the distribution of vaccine goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
  • A limited amount of vaccine is currently available with more expected to be delivered in the coming months. As of January 4, more than 18,000 COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Alaska. A tracker is available online as is a vaccine dashboard for up-to-date data.
  • There are no plans to mandate a vaccine at the state level.
  • The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is responsible for providing national recommendations for vaccine administration and allocation.

New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths

  • During the week of December 27, 2020 through January 2, 2021, 2,055 new Alaska cases were reported, a 10% increase from last week, for a total of 46,812 cumulative cases in Alaskans.
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 1,013 with 12 reported as occurring this week. Hospitalization reports often lag and only 974 hospitalizations were reported at this time last week, so there are 39 hospitalizations newly reported this week including ones that began during previous weeks.
  • Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 18 (217 total). All but two deaths occurred prior to this past week. It is common to take more than a week for a death to be reported, and more deaths that occurred during Dec 27–Jan 2 may be reported in future.
  • There were 48 new nonresident cases identified this week, for a total of 1,551 cases.

Regional case trends

Behavioral Health RegionCase rates
Nov 15– Nov 28
Case rates
Nov 22– Dec 5
Case rates
Nov 29– Dec 12*
Case rates
Dec 5– Dec 19
Case rates
Dec 13– Dec 26
Case rates
Dec 20– Jan 2
Anchorage Municipality105.389.287.773.346.440.0
Fairbanks North Star Borough42.941.065.561.833.832.6
Interior Region except Fairbanks61.548.746.935.023.223.8
Juneau City and Borough22.623.523.717.014.713.6
Kenai Peninsula Borough100.6105.775.560.740.022.3
Matanuska-Susitna Region68.3154.4113.962.048.248.2
Northern Southeast Region23.827.219.215.012.67.0
Northwest Region50.565.668.258.936.525.3
Southern Southeast Region7.514.714.09.05.06.1
Southwest Region40.572.9117.289.050.942.5
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region188.4172.9164.8158.073.3144.2
Statewide79.989.785.865.241.138.6

*Note: case rates for Nov 29–Dec 12 reflect 2-week case rates through Dec 14

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Health care capacity

  • On January 4, 75 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 were hospitalized, a 7% increase from this time last week; 9 were reported to have required a mechanical ventilator.
  • Hospital staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Additional informational resources:

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

Options for Vaccine Registration

The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine brings hope and excitement. Vaccine distribution is based upon federal/state guidelines with specific phases and tiers defined. As supply becomes more readily available at each phase, be sure you are registered!

Please assist your Elders and family members with online vaccine registration. In time, everyone who would like to get vaccinated will be able to.

In Sitka, there are two options for scheduling a vaccine. The State of Alaska, in collaboration with Harry Race Pharmacy, is offering vaccinations. Individuals may sign up at: http://covidvax.alaska.gov. SEARHC is also offering vaccinations. To register, visit https://covid19.searhc.org/ or call 907.966.8799.

For COVID-19 vaccine information, visit:
–> SEARHC https://covid19.searhc.org/
–> Alaska DHSS http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/VaccineInfo.aspx#where
–> CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html

DHSS Press Release: Alaskans 65 and older can receive vaccinations starting Monday, Jan. 11. Scheduling for those appointments begins Wednesday, Jan. 6

January 4, 2021 ANCHORAGE – In an effort to continue to quickly vaccinate Alaskans, the Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force is opening up appointment scheduling and vaccination clinics for Phase 1b, Tier 1 –  Alaskans 65 years of age and older – on Wednesday, Jan. 6, at noon, with appointments starting Monday, Jan. 11.

Initially, those in Phase 1b, Tier 1 (Alaskans 65 years of age and older) were set to begin vaccinations in late January. However, after assessing how much vaccine remains to be administered, the Vaccine Task Force has adjusted the timeline forward.

“All clinics who have received COVID-19 vaccine should continue to vaccinate the remaining health care workers from Phase 1a who wish to be vaccinated, but we are also excited to open up appointments for Alaskans who are 65 years of age or older,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink.

NEW TIMELINE – Phase 1b, Tier 1 (Alaskans 65+)

  • Begin scheduling vaccinations at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 6 – Alaskans 65 years of age or older can schedule appointments starting noon on Jan. 6 by visiting covidvax.alaska.gov. Vaccinations for older Alaskans (age 65+) will now begin Jan. 11.
  • Choose an appointment for Monday, Jan. 11 or later – Alaskans 65 years of age and older can begin getting vaccinated starting Monday, Jan. 11. When scheduling an appointment, please choose a date on Jan. 11 or later.

Some Alaskans in future phases may have already made appointments.  If you are in Phase 1B, Tier 1, you do not need to cancel your appointment. If you are not in health care or 65 or older as defined by Phase 1A or Phase 1B, Tier 1, please cancel your appointment so Alaskans in the earlier tiers can make appointments. New appointments will be added regularly as more vaccine providers sign up and more vaccine is available. Additional information about the COVID-19 vaccine and Alaska’s distribution plans may be found at Covidvax.Alaska.gov.

# # #

Sitka Unified Command Recommends Citizens Enroll for a Vaccination

Your best protection from COVID-19 will be a combination of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands often. No one tool alone is going to stop the pandemic. Learn about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination at:

CDC:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html

Alaska DHSS:  http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/VaccineInfo.aspx

SEARHC: https://covid19.searhc.org/

Sitka Unified Command recommends citizens enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at https://covidvax.alaska.gov and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/ or 907.966.8799.

Sitka Residents: Vaccine Registration

The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine brings hope and excitement. Vaccine distribution is based upon federal/state guidelines with specific phases and tiers defined. As supply becomes more readily available at each phase, be sure you are registered! Please assist your Elders and family members with online vaccine registration. In time, everyone who would like to get vaccinated will be able to.

To register, visit:
–> State of Alaska/Harry Race Pharmacy http://covidvax.alaska.gov
–> SEARHC https://covid19.searhc.org/ or call 907.966.8799

For COVID-19 vaccine information, visit:
–> SEARHC https://covid19.searhc.org/
–> Alaska DHSS http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/VaccineInfo.aspx#where
–> CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html