COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: August 15 – August 21, 2021

Alaska Weekly Update

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
August 15 — August 21, 2021

Intermediate Statewide transmission
Rt 1.15
HIGH Statewide alert status
436.3
Limited Hospital capacityHIGH Test positivity
6.5%
60.00%
Alaskans 12 years and older are vaccinated
Red- Rt >1.2
Orange- Rt 1-1.2 Yellow- Rt <1
7-day case rate per 100,000 population. Red-  ≥100
Orange- 50-99.99
Yellow- 10-49.99
Blue- 0-9.99  
Multiple hospitals in Anchorage were at surge capacity the weekend of August 21st and August 22nd due to high volumes of both COVID and non-COVID patients.Red->5%
Orange- 2-5%
Yellow- <2%
This includes people with at least one dose. Estimated AK population 12 and older of 607,022 from the AK Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

Case Trends

  • The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Alaska continued last week on an upwards trajectory.

  • 3,232 cases were reported in Alaskans between August 15–August 21. This is a 47.4% increase from the week before.
  • Cases remain high or are increasing in most parts of the state on the road system (including Kenai Peninsula Borough, Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and Fairbanks North Star Borough).
  • While the intensity of COVID-19 transmission varies substantially between communities off the road system, COVID-19 cases are regularly reported from nearly all boroughs and census areas.
  • The Delta variant has become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in Alaska. This variant transmits more easily than other variants.

COVID-19 Guidance

  • Currently available COVID vaccines will help protect you, your family, and your community against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Getting vaccinated now is more important than ever.
  • If you do test positive, isolate right away, and notify your contacts. Ask them to get tested and, if they are unvaccinated, to quarantine.
  • Monoclonal antibody treatments are effective and reduce the risk of hospitalization. If you have COVID-19 or are a close contact, talk to a healthcare provider about whether treatment may be right for you. The treatments work best when given early.
  • CDC recommends that all persons in areas with substantial or high community transmission wear a mask when in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Most Alaskans live in an area with substantial or high community transmission as classified by the CDC.
  • Fully vaccinated persons who are close contacts to someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine but should get tested 3 to 5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor areas for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

Borough/Census Area Alert Level Trends

  • Alert levels are based on the case counts over the past 7 days as well as the daily number of reported cases over the past 7 days per 100,000 population.
  • Alert levels have been changed to more closely mirror CDC’s community transmission indicator and are calculated by borough and census area, rather than by region.
Borough/Census AreaAlert Level
August 2
Alert Level
August 9
Alert Level
August 16
Alert Level
August 23
CountRateCountRateCountRateCountRate
Anchorage Municipality727251.6894309.4924319.81,169404.5
Fairbanks North Star Borough102105.0105108.1123126.6199204.8
Juneau City and Borough76239.259185.7122384.0154484.7
Kenai Peninsula Borough210356.3333565.0319541.3394668.5
Matanuska-Susitna Region166154.7223207.8233217.1406378.4
Nome Census Area16163.8*53542.51101,126.01371,402.4
North Slope Borough881.9*18184.2*28286.659603.8
Northwest Arctic Borough27356.129382.433435.255725.3
Chugach Census Area54799.932474.023340.742622.1
Copper River Census Area17629.9*8296.4*3**14518.7*
Denali Borough1**7387.6*4**5**
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area14201.8*4**686.5*9129.7*
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area6119.0*9178.4*6119.0*13257.7*
Haines Borough0**1**441,746.0391,547.6
Petersburg Borough0**2**0**1**
Sitka City and Borough911,067.752610.132375.553621.8
Skagway Municipality3**2**4**5**
Wrangell City and Borough3**4**4**14588.5*
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon1**0**0**5**
Ketchikan Gateway Borough24175.559431.483606.975548.4
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area38624.016262.7*23377.735574.7
Bethel Census Area50279.840223.942235.1113632.4
Kusilvak Census Area19234.9*19234.9*15185.5*40494.6
Aleutians East Borough1**12410.3*5**3**
Aleutians West Census Area9162.3*1**3**11198.4*
Dillingham Census Area4**14293.3*16335.2*37775.2
Kodiak Island Borough35277.588697.872570.990713.7
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula3**1**4**2**
Statewide1,705233.92,086286.22,285313.53,180436.3
  • *Rates based on <20 observations are statistically unreliable and should be used with caution.
  • **Rates based on <6 observations are not reported.

Vaccination Status

  • Anyone aged 12+ in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have received an initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to get your second dose too. Scientific studies have shown that two doses of an mRNA vaccine are more effective than one dose of an mRNA vaccine, especially against emerging variants of concern.
  • CDC recommends that people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after a second dose of an mRNA vaccine.
  • Vaccinated persons with immunocompromising conditions should discuss with their health care providers the need for additional personal protective measures.
  • To schedule your vaccine appointment visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.
  • To find clinics in your area you can visit vaccines.gov or text your zip code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish.
  • The Alaska vaccine dashboard is available online for the most up-to-date data.

Borough/Census Area Vaccination Coverage

  • This is the percent of Alaskans aged 12+ who received one or more doses of vaccine.
Borough/Census AreaAugust 24
Aleutians East Borough88.4%
Aleutians West Census Area73.4%
Anchorage Municipality64.1%
Bethel Census Area76.1%
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula91.0%
Denali Borough69.8%
Dillingham Census Area61.3%
Fairbanks North Star Borough51.7%
Haines Borough72.7%
Juneau City and Borough80.9%
Kenai Peninsula Borough49.8%
Ketchikan Gateway Borough68.9%
Kodiak Island Borough69.3%
Kusilvak Census Area80.3%
Matanuska-Susitna Borough42.6%
Nome Census Area83.3%
North Slope Borough39.6%
Northwest Arctic Borough66.1%
Petersburg Borough66.9%
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area68.8%
Sitka City and Borough79.7%
Skagway Municipality84.8%
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area34.4%
Valdez-Cordova Census Area64.5%
Wrangell City and Borough63.9%
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon79.2%
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area80.4%
Statewide60.0%

New Hospitalizations and Deaths

  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 111 to 1,924. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
  • 13.1% of hospitalized patients in Alaska had COVID-19 as of August 24, 2021.
  • On August 21, there were 132 persons with COVID-19 in AK hospitals, which is a 13.8% increase relative to the week before when there were 116 persons hospitalized.
  • The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents increased by 11 to 406. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during August 15–August 21 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.

Total Confirmed COVID Beds

Variant Tracking

Variants of ConcernCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Alpha (B.1.1.7)450020 December 2020
Beta (B.1.351)7020 March 2021
Gamma (P.1/P.1.1/P.1.2)7408 February 2021
Delta (B.1.617.2-like)958+8230 May 2021
 
Variants of InterestCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Epsilon (B.1.427/429)140024 December 2020
Eta (B.1.525)1016 March 2021
Iota (B.1.526)24+24 February 2021
Zeta (P.2)4027 January 2021

Vaccine Breakthrough Cases

  • Vaccine breakthrough (VB) infections of COVID-19 are those detected in a person who is at least 2 weeks beyond their second dose of a 2-dose series or the only dose of a 1-dose series.
  • From January 1–August 21, 2021, 15 deaths, 76 hospitalizations, and 3,735 cases with a VB infection were reported among Alaska residents. These counts are provisional and subject to change as more data are compiled. In that same time frame, a total of 34,040 cases, 837 hospitalizations, and 137 deaths were reported.
  • 89% of all cases, 91% of all hospitalizations, and 89% of deaths among Alaska residents from January 1 through August 21, 2021 were in people who were not fully vaccinated. 
  • Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report.

COVID-19 Communication Resources

Statewide Percentage of Daily Tests with Positive Results
(Seven day rolling average)

Cases by Week of Onset and Age

Cases by Week of Onset and Race

Additional informational resources:

  • The State of Alaska COVID-19 information page provides 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: updated Monday – Friday at data.coronavirus.alaska.gov

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

NEWS RELEASE: August 25 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES DASHBOARD CHANGES AND VACCINES

SITKA, August 25, 2021 – Acting Incident Commander Rob Janik reported the Pfizer vaccine had full FDA approval and he anticipated that it would eliminate one of the barriers for individuals that had not been vaccinated and hoped it would increase the vaccination rate. He said booster information would be out soon and that the third dose of the Pfizer vaccine was currently available for those that were immunocompromised. He said that the local case rate continued to decline from the peak at the beginning of August.

Janik stated the City and Borough of Sitka’s COVID-19 Dashboard would be transitioning to a new reporting model on September 1 to align with the model that was adopted, recommended, and used by the State Department of Epidemiology. He said the model currently used was also given by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services about this time last year which had been revised to better assess and report the risk in every community.

Dr. Bruhl, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander was pleased that in Sitka SEARHC COVID-19 admissions had dropped significantly in the last 10 days. He relayed that there were no COVID-19 positive individuals hospitalized yesterday but that there are ebbs and flows, although the numbers were going down steadily. He said that was not the case for hospitals in the Anchorage area which continued to be full which was a threat as SEARHC patients were sent there. He said that they had been able to send patients to the Seattle area. He stated the situation was being monitored continuously and reminded that SEARHC in Sitka served as a regional center for all Southeast Alaska. He said they were collaborating with others in terms of making sure that people were taken care of.

He said that testing continued to be steady although not as strong as it had been and reminded SEARHC testing was available between the hours of noon and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday across from the hospital.

He reported the third dose of the Pfizer vaccine was available for the immunocompromised and suggested those individuals call their provider if they had questions and/or to schedule. They were also working on a process for booster shots that were anticipated beginning in September. He relayed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) was a panel of experts that were in the process of reviewing data and coming up with a standardized plan for the country regarding the booster shot.

He stated the monoclonal antibody treatment, an intravenous (IV) infusion, was antibodies that an individual could receive if they were COVID-19 positive and met criteria and gave the example of an individual over the age of 50 that had health conditions. He said that the criteria continued to get broader. He stated the treatment reduced hospitalization and/or death which had proved to be a safe and effective treatment.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing relayed the State of Alaska DHSS Public Health Science Echo videoconference was informative for COVID-19 information along with general questions and was a good resource that took place every Wednesday from noon to 1:00 p.m.  More information can be found by visiting Alaska DHSS.

Public Information Officers Melissa Henshaw and Jessica Ieremia reported on August 24 the assembly passed an extension of emergency ordinance for requiring the use of a face covering in certain indoor public settings or communal spaces outside the home.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) reported student arrival last weekend. She said there had been a few positive COVID-19 cases, and they had a robust testing schedule. She said there was a quarantine process that allowed for minimizing of close contacts. She noted there had been no spread on campus, that there were a few students quarantining and they would be retested. She felt that considering there were almost 400 students, having four positive cases was good and thought if they could get through the next week, they would be on to a successful year.

Sitka School District Superintendent Frank Hauser stated in person school began on August 23 with a lot of excitement and thanked principals and staff for the organized opening. He said in the current high alert level masks were required for students and staff. He said he had visited all schools and noted that staff and students were wearing masks but that it didn’t diminish the excitement that he saw. He told of the new rapid testing program where high school athletes and students in extracurricular activities tested weekly on Monday and other schools had a weekly testing day as well. He said the participation was good and felt encouraged to see the program continue to grow.

Lisa Gassman, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) reported testing of staff and remote work. She thanked Dr. Bruhl and staff for the work that they were doing and for leading the way on communication with people and helping those that were in need.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported a full vaccine clinic on Friday beginning at 10:00 a.m. next to Harry Race Pharmacy with a few first, 20 second, and some third dose vaccines scheduled. She said they would continue to hold Friday clinics and reminded that it was also the time of year for the flu vaccine which would be taking place mid-September on Fridays at the same location in the afternoon hours. Citizens may register for a vaccination clinic at Harry Race Pharmacy.  

Due to the High Alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends continued mitigation: face coverings are strongly encouraged for individuals regardless of vaccination status, maintaining physical distance of 6 feet along with following CDC guidelines CDC Guidelines.

We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others. In addition, get tested but stay home if you feel ill, wear a face covering when around others, and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces on a regular basis.

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu – fever, aching, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and sometimes decreased sense of taste and smell. If you are concerned you might have contracted the coronavirus contact the COVID hotline at 966.8799. Outside of normal clinic hours, patients can contact the SEARHC 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 1.800.613.0560 to be triaged by a registered nurse. 

The Sitka Emergency Unified Command continues to urge citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race Pharmacy and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated to be safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus. Being vaccinated is the best way to protect our community.

The Emergency Operations Center encourages residents to prepare for any local emergency by ensuring each family member has a 14- day emergency supply kit, including any necessary medications.

For information on the local pandemic response, visit https://cityofsitka.org or https://covid19.searhc.org.

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Assembly Ordinance EXTENDED Requiring Use of a Face Covering in Certain Indoor Settings and Providing a Penalty

On August 24, 2021 the City and Borough of Sitka Assembly extended emergency ordinance 2021-24 requiring use of a face covering in certain indoor settings and providing a penalty to midnight on September 28 or when the risk level as defined by the Sitka Emergency Operations Center is moderate, during times before September 28 whichever occurs first.

The following is required: All individuals must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are indoors in public settings or communal spaces outside the home.

Click below to read details on the settings, employment requirements, exceptions, and enforcement policy.

State of Alaska DHSS Press Release: COVID-19 three-dose vaccine series for immunocompromised individuals recommended and available now

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media contacts:         Clinton Bennett, DHSS, 907-269-4996, clinton.bennett@alaska.gov

Public inquiries:         State COVID-19 Vaccine Helpline, 907-646-3322

COVID-19 three-dose vaccine series for immunocompromised individuals
recommended and available now

August 20, 2021 ANCHORAGE – The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is encouraging all Alaskans who are immunocompromised to follow a national recommendation to get a three-dose vaccine series now and is also closely following news about a federal plan to offer booster doses starting in late September to all Americans who are already fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).

These developments come as a result of new studies released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing decreased protections from a two-dose mRNA series for people with suppressed immune systems, as well as waning protection against infection over time for people who are not immunocompromised. Importantly, the studies also showed the vaccines still provide strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death. However, this new information, along with the high transmissibility of the delta variant, point to the need to strengthen the protections provided by the vaccines.

Available now: Third dose of mRNA vaccine for immunocompromised individuals
In accordance with the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), DHSS is currently recommending a third dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for moderately and severely immunocompromised individuals to ensure adequate protection against COVID-19. This third dose of Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines is applicable only to persons whose immune systems are moderately to severely compromised. This does not currently include people who have received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Alaskans may talk with their health care provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.

The federal recommendation for a three-dose primary mRNA vaccine series for immunocompromised individuals was based on studies showing that many immunocompromised people are unable to mount a robust enough immune response after the initial two-dose primary mRNA vaccine series is completed. The additional dose reinforces and helps build the immune response to provide an acceptable level of effectiveness against a potential COVID-19 infection. This additional mRNA dose in a primary series should not be confused with a booster dose. Third doses are available to moderately or severely immunocompromised persons throughout the state anywhere COVID-19 vaccines are provided.

 Moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals include people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress the immune response

Pending: Booster doses for persons fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine
A booster dose for the general public is not currently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or recommended by ACIP. However, DHSS is beginning to plan for offering booster doses later this fall based on Wednesday’s announcement. It is anticipated that Alaskans will be advised to schedule their booster dose appointment starting eight months after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines. Recommendations for the single-dose J&J vaccine will be forthcoming, pending the results of ongoing studies.

What can Alaskans do now? Get vaccinated if you aren’t already fully vaccinated. “Choosing to get immunized against COVID-19 remains the single most important action Alaskans can take to protect themselves and their community,” said DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum. “We want to ensure that all eligible Alaskans have ample access, resources and opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Other mitigation efforts like wearing a face mask when needed, handwashing and physical distancing provide additional layers of protection.”

More information on the CDC’s recommendation for immunocompromised individuals is available online. The CDC’s joint statement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about planning for booster shots is also available online.

To find a location and schedule an appointment, visit covidvax.alaska.gov or vaccines.gov.

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Attachment:


FDA News Release: FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccine

FDA NEWS RELEASE

FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccine

Approval Signifies Key Achievement for Public Health

 For Immediate Release: August 23, 2021

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.” 

Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products. For all vaccines, the FDA evaluates data and information included in the manufacturer’s submission of a biologics license application (BLA). A BLA is a comprehensive document that is submitted to the agency providing very specific requirements. For Comirnaty, the BLA builds on the extensive data and information previously submitted that supported the EUA, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality, and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made. The agency conducts its own analyses of the information in the BLA to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective and meets the FDA’s standards for approval. 

Comirnaty contains messenger RNA (mRNA), a kind of genetic material. The mRNA is used by the body to make a mimic of one of the proteins in the virus that causes COVID-19. The result of a person receiving this vaccine is that their immune system will ultimately react defensively to the virus that causes COVID-19. The mRNA in Comirnaty is only present in the body for a short time and is not incorporated into – nor does it alter – an individual’s genetic material. Comirnaty has the same formulation as the EUA vaccine and is administered as a series of two doses, three weeks apart. 

“Our scientific and medical experts conducted an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation of this vaccine. We evaluated scientific data and information included in hundreds of thousands of pages, conducted our own analyses of Comirnaty’s safety and effectiveness, and performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “We have not lost sight that the COVID-19 public health crisis continues in the U.S. and that the public is counting on safe and effective vaccines. The public and medical community can be confident that although we approved this vaccine expeditiously, it was fully in keeping with our existing high standards for vaccines in the U.S.”

FDA Evaluation of Safety and Effectiveness Data for Approval for 16 Years of Age and Older

The first EUA, issued Dec. 11, for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older was based on safety and effectiveness data from a randomized, controlled, blinded ongoing clinical trial of thousands of individuals. 

To support the FDA’s approval decision today, the FDA reviewed updated data from the clinical trial which supported the EUA and included a longer duration of follow-up in a larger clinical trial population. 

Specifically, in the FDA’s review for approval, the agency analyzed effectiveness data from approximately 20,000 vaccine and 20,000 placebo recipients ages 16 and older who did not have evidence of the COVID-19 virus infection within a week of receiving the second dose. The safety of Comirnaty was evaluated in approximately 22,000 people who received the vaccine and 22,000 people who received a placebo 16 years of age and older.

Based on results from the clinical trial, the vaccine was 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease. 

More than half of the clinical trial participants were followed for safety outcomes for at least four months after the second dose. Overall, approximately 12,000 recipients have been followed for at least 6 months.

The most commonly reported side effects by those clinical trial participants who received Comirnaty were pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain, chills, and fever. The vaccine is effective in preventing COVID-19 and potentially serious outcomes including hospitalization and death.

Additionally, the FDA conducted a rigorous evaluation of the post-authorization safety surveillance data pertaining to myocarditis and pericarditis following administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and has determined that the data demonstrate increased risks, particularly within the seven days following the second dose. The observed risk is higher among males under 40 years of age compared to females and older males. The observed risk is highest in males 12 through 17 years of age. Available data from short-term follow-up suggest that most individuals have had resolution of symptoms. However, some individuals required intensive care support. Information is not yet available about potential long-term health outcomes. The Comirnaty Prescribing Information includes a warning about these risks.

Ongoing Safety Monitoring

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have monitoring systems in place to ensure that any safety concerns continue to be identified and evaluated in a timely manner. In addition, the FDA is requiring the company to conduct postmarketing studies to further assess the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination with Comirnaty. These studies will include an evaluation of long-term outcomes among individuals who develop myocarditis following vaccination with Comirnaty. In addition, although not FDA requirements, the company has committed to additional post-marketing safety studies, including conducting a pregnancy registry study to evaluate pregnancy and infant outcomes after receipt of Comirnaty during pregnancy.

The FDA granted this application Priority Review. The approval was granted to BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH.

Related Information

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The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: August 8 – August 14, 2021

Alaska Weekly Update

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
August 8 — August 14, 2021

Intermediate Statewide transmission
Rt 1.12
HIGH Statewide alert status
313.5
Limited Hospital capacityHIGH Test positivity
6.8%
59.3%
Alaskans 12 years and older are vaccinated
Red- Rt >1.2
Orange- Rt 1-1.2 Yellow- Rt <1
7-day case rate per 100,000 population. Red-  ≥100
Orange- 50-99.99
Yellow- 10-49.99
Blue- 0-9.99  
Multiple hospitals in Anchorage were at surge capacity the weekend of August 14th and August 15th due to high volumes of both COVID and non-COVID patients.Red->5%
Orange- 2-5%
Yellow- <2%
This includes people with at least one dose. Estimated AK population 12 and older of 607,022 from the AK Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

Case Trends

  • The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Alaska continued last week on an upwards trajectory. The true increase in cases is likely substantially larger than reflected in reported case counts, due to increasing delays in lab testing and delays in processing lab reports.

  • 2,193 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 3.3% increase from the week before.
  • Cases remain high or are increasing in most parts of the state on the road system (including Kenai Peninsula Borough, Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and Fairbanks North Star Borough).
  • Increases in cases were widely distributed across the state, with increases in parts of Southeast Alaska (e.g., Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Juneau, and Haines) and parts of rural Alaska (e.g., Nome Census Area).
  • The Delta variant has become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in Alaska. This variant transmits more easily than other variants.

Updated COVID-19 Guidance

  • Currently available COVID vaccines will help protect you, your family, and your community against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Getting vaccinated now is more important than ever.
  • If you do test positive, isolate right away, and notify your contacts. Ask them to get tested and, if they are unvaccinated, to quarantine.
  • Monoclonal antibody treatments are effective and reduce the risk of hospitalization. If you have COVID-19 or are a close contact, talk to a healthcare provider about whether treatment may be right for you. The treatments work best when given early.
  • CDC recommends that all persons in areas with substantial or high community transmission wear a mask when in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Most Alaskans live in an area with substantial or high community transmission as classified by the CDC.
  • Fully vaccinated persons who are close contacts to someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine but should get tested 3 to 5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor areas for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

Borough/Census Area Alert Level Trends

  • Alert levels are based on the case counts over the past 7 days as well as the daily number of reported cases over the past 7 days per 100,000 population.
  • Alert levels have been changed to more closely mirror CDC’s community transmission indicator and are calculated by borough and census area, rather than by region.
Borough/Census AreaAlert Level
July 26
Alert Level
August 2
Alert Level
August 9
Alert Level
August 16
CountRateCountRateCountRateCountRate
Anchorage Municipality544188.3727251.6894309.4924319.8
Fairbanks North Star Borough6667.9102105.0105108.1123126.6
Juneau City and Borough86270.776239.259185.7122384.0
Kenai Peninsula Borough181307.1210356.3333565.0319541.3
Matanuska-Susitna Region119110.9166154.7223207.8233217.1
Nome Census Area12122.8*16163.8*53542.51101,126.0
North Slope Borough661.4*881.9*18184.2*28286.6
Northwest Arctic Borough1**27356.129382.433435.2
Chugach Census Area40592.554799.932474.023340.7
Copper River Census Area311,148.617629.9*8296.4*3**
Denali Borough1**1**7387.6*4**
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area10144.2*14201.8*4**686.5*
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area1**6119.0*9178.4*6119.0*
Haines Borough0**0**1**441,746.0
Petersburg Borough0**0**2**0**
Sitka City and Borough1661,947.7911,067.752610.132375.5
Skagway Municipality0**3**2**4**
Wrangell City and Borough2**3**4**4**
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon1**1**0**0**
Ketchikan Gateway Borough1180.4*24175.559431.483606.9
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area1**38624.016262.7*23377.7
Bethel Census Area42235.150279.840223.942235.1
Kusilvak Census Area14173.1*19234.9*19234.9*15185.5*
Aleutians East Borough5**1**12410.3*5**
Aleutians West Census Area7126.3*9162.3*1**3**
Dillingham Census Area4**4**14293.3*16335.2*
Kodiak Island Borough42333.035277.588697.872570.9
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula2**3**1**4**
Statewide1,395191.41,705233.92,086286.22,285313.5

*Rates based on <20 observations are statistically unreliable and should be used with caution.
**Rates based on <6 observations are not reported.

Vaccination Status

  • Anyone aged 12+ in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have received an initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to get your second dose too. Scientific studies have shown that two doses of an mRNA vaccine are more effective than one dose of an mRNA vaccine, especially against emerging variants of concern.
  • CDC recommends that people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after a second dose of an mRNA vaccine.
  • Vaccinated persons with immunocompromising conditions should discuss with their health care providers the need for additional personal protective measures.
  • To schedule your vaccine appointment visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.
  • To find clinics in your area you can visit vaccines.gov or text your zip code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish.
  • The Alaska vaccine dashboard is available online for the most up-to-date data.

Borough/Census Area Vaccination Coverage

  • This is the percent of Alaskans aged 12+ who received one or more doses of vaccine.
Borough/Census AreaAugust 17
Aleutians East Borough88.1%
Aleutians West Census Area72.5%
Anchorage Municipality63.2%
Bethel Census Area75.5%
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula90.7%
Denali Borough68.8%
Dillingham Census Area61.1%
Fairbanks North Star Borough51.1%
Haines Borough72.7%
Juneau City and Borough79.9%
Kenai Peninsula Borough49.1%
Ketchikan Gateway Borough68.0%
Kodiak Island Borough68.4%
Kusilvak Census Area79.8%
Matanuska-Susitna Borough41.7%
Nome Census Area83.1%
North Slope Borough39.0%
Northwest Arctic Borough65.7%
Petersburg Borough66.2%
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area68.4%
Sitka City and Borough78.3%
Skagway Municipality83.9%
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area33.9%
Valdez-Cordova Census Area63.9%
Wrangell City and Borough63.3%
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon79.0%
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area80.0%
Statewide59.3%

New Hospitalizations and Deaths

  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 59 to 1,813. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
  • 14.1% of hospitalized patients in Alaska had COVID-19 as of August 17, 2021.
  • On August 14, there were 116 persons with COVID-19 in AK hospitals, which is a 19.6% increase relative to the week before when there were 97 persons hospitalized.
  • The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents increased by 3 to 395. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during August 8–August 14 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.

Variant Tracking

Variants of ConcernCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Alpha (B.1.1.7)450+1120 December 2020
Beta (B.1.351)7020 March 2021
Gamma (P.1/P.1.1/P.1.2)74+18 February 2021
Delta (B.1.617.2-like)876+29930 May 2021
 
Variants of InterestCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Epsilon (B.1.427/429)140+124 December 2020
Eta (B.1.525)1016 March 2021
Iota (B.1.526)2204 February 2021
Zeta (P.2)4027 January 2021

Vaccine Breakthrough Cases

  • Vaccine breakthrough (VB) infections of COVID-19 are those detected in a person who is at least 2 weeks beyond their second dose of a 2-dose series or the only dose of a 1-dose series.
  • From January 1–August 14, 2021, seven deaths, 62 hospitalizations, and 2,883 cases with a VB infection were reported among Alaska residents. These counts are provisional and subject to change as more data are compiled. In that same time frame, a total of 30,791 cases, 745 hospitalizations, and 110 deaths were reported.
  • 91% of all cases, 92% of all hospitalizations, and 94% of deaths among Alaska residents from January 1 through August 14, 2021 were in people who were not fully vaccinated. 
  • Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report.

COVID-19 Communication Resources

Statewide Percentage of Daily Tests with Positive Results
(Seven day rolling average)

Cases by Week of Onset and Age

Cases by Week of Onset and Race

Additional informational resources:

  • The State of Alaska COVID-19 information page provides 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: updated Monday – Friday at data.coronavirus.alaska.gov
  • For DHSS media inquiries, please contact clinton.bennett@alaska.gov

August 18 News Release: Unified Command Weekly Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES RECENT COVID UPTICK AND BOOSTER SHOTS

SITKA, August 18, 2021 – Rob Janik, Acting Incident Commander reported a slight uptick in the case rate over the past weekend. Unfortunately, Sitka’s steady decline has not remained. The City and Borough of Sitka (CBS) and Public Health have ramped up their efforts to increase access to testing for asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals so positive cases can be quickly identified.

Janik, commended local Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing for her efforts working with different organizations to control outbreaks. The CBS and Public Health met August 17 with North Pacific Seafoods to discuss a recent outbreak at Sitka Sound Seafoods.  Janik shared their corporate response had been excellent.

Janik addressed public inquiries questioning possible local COVID-19 deaths that had not been recorded on the CBS Dashboard. Unified Command and Public Health only record a death once it has been declared a COVID death by the State of Alaska. This can be a slow process.  

Starting September 1, 2021, Janik announced the CBS will change its reporting model on the Dashboard to parallel the Department of Health and Social Services model. The City of Sitka will transition from a 14-day case count per a 10,000 population to a 7- day case count per a 100,000 population.

Thor Christianson, Logistics mentioned the mask mandate would be back on the agenda at the August 24 Assembly meeting to extend the mandate through September 28.

Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing reported over the weekend there was a spike in cases due to an outbreak at one of the seafood plants.  The Vice President of North Pacific Seafoods was planning a press release in the Sitka Sentinel detailing the occurrence. Ewing commented that it had been a fine line reporting information and keeping private information confidential. North Pacific Seafoods had several COVID positive employees and worked quickly with Ewing to come up with a mitigation strategy for housing, quarantining and isolating individuals along with shutting down different areas of the plant and diverting fish to keep everyone safe.

It was reported over 80% of North Pacific Seafoods employees had been vaccinated and were following recommended mitigation strategies to keep the community and staff safe. Ewing reminded due to the aggressive nature of the Delta variant, even when everything was done right, people could still get infected, and outbreaks could occur. Due to a good mitigation strategy North Pacific Seafoods was able to keep it from spreading. The plant was being proactive and planned to have a nurse practitioner onsite.

Ewing stated in mid- September, booster shots would be available to those individuals age 18 years and older who had received their last vaccination shot 8 months earlier. It was recommended individuals stay with the same manufacturer as their initial doses. The State was working on plans with other providers on how to roll the plan out to the public. It was anticipated the plan would mirror the initial rollout with the most vulnerable receiving their booster shots first.

Reporting for Trish White, Harry Race and White’s Pharmacy, Janik shared they would offer all three vaccines Friday, August 20, 2021, at 102 Lincoln Street location in the Harry Race Building. Appointments for the booster shot would be available starting Friday, August 27, 2021. Go to https://www.sitkapharmacies.com/covid-19 or call 907-206-2202 for questions and concerns.

The Jansen J&J vaccine is not eligible at this time for a booster shot.

Superintendent of Sitka School District, Frank Hauser welcomed back all students next week and relayed schools would be operating at a HIGH-risk level; the same as CBS. Masks would be required for staff and students. Hauser noted the School District was following the CBS alert level system.  Hauser thanked Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing and Dr. Bruhl for the continued support on the return to school mitigation plans.

Public Information Officers, Jessica Ieremia & Melissa Henshaw noted the Assembly’s Citation honoring Sitka’s Healthcare Professionals, First Responders, and Frontline workers.

Due to the High Alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends continued mitigation: face coverings are strongly encouraged for individuals regardless of vaccination status, maintaining physical distance of 6 feet along with following CDC guidelines CDC Guidelines.

We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others. In addition, get tested but stay home if you feel ill, wear a face covering when around others, and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces on a regular basis.

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu – fever, aching, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and sometimes decreased sense of taste and smell. If you are concerned you might have contracted the coronavirus contact the COVID hotline at 966.8799. Outside of normal clinic hours, patients can contact the SEARHC 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 1.800.613.0560 to be triaged by a registered nurse. 

The Sitka Emergency Unified Command continues to urge citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race Pharmacy and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated to be safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus. Being vaccinated is the best way to protect our community.

The Emergency Operations Center encourages residents to prepare for any local emergency by ensuring each family member has a 14- day emergency supply kit, including any necessary medications.

For information on the local pandemic response, visit https://cityofsitka.org or https://covid19.searhc.org.

# # #

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: August 1 – August 7, 2021

Alaska Weekly Update

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
August 1 — August 7, 2021

HIGH Statewide transmission
Rt 1.23
HIGH Statewide alert status
286.2
Limited Hospital capacityIntermediate Test positivity
7.0%
58.6%
Alaskans 12 years and older are vaccinated
Red- Rt >1.2
Orange- Rt 1-1.2 Yellow- Rt <1
7-day case rate per 100,000 population. Red-  ≥100
Orange- 50-99.99
Yellow- 10-49.99
Blue- 0-9.99  
Multiple hospitals in Anchorage were at surge capacity the weekend of August 7th and August 8th due to high volumes of both COVID and non-COVID patients.Red->5%
Orange- 2-5%
Yellow- <2%
This includes people with at least one dose. Estimated AK population 12 and older of 607,022 from the AK Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

Case Trends

  • The number of COVID-19 cases in Alaska continued last week on an upwards trajectory.

  • 2,124 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is an 33% increase from the week before.
  • Cases remain high or are increasing in most parts of the state on the road system (including Kenai Peninsula Borough, Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and Fairbanks North Star Borough).
  • Increases in cases were widely distributed across the state, with increases in parts of Southeast Alaska (e.g., Ketchikan Gateway Borough) and parts of rural Alaska (e.g., Kodiak Island Borough and Nome Census Area).
  • The Delta variant has become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in Alaska. This variant transmits more easily than other variants.

Updated COVID-19 Guidance

  • Currently available COVID vaccines will help protect you, your family, and your community against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Getting vaccinated now is more important than ever.
  • If you do test positive, isolate right away and notify your contacts. Ask them to get tested and, if they are unvaccinated, to quarantine.
  • Monoclonal antibody treatments are effective and reduce the risk of hospitalization. If you have COVID-19 or are a close contact, talk to a healthcare provider about whether treatment may be right for you. The treatments work best when given early.
  • CDC recommends that all persons in areas with substantial or high community transmission wear a mask when in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Most Alaskans live in an area with substantial or high community transmission as classified by the CDC.
  • Fully vaccinated persons who are close contacts to someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine but should get tested 3 to 5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor areas for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

Borough/Census Area Alert Level Trends

  • Alert levels are based on the daily number of reported cases over the past 7 days per 100,000 population.
  • Alert levels have been changed to more closely mirror CDC’s community transmission indicator and are calculated by borough and census area, rather than by region.
Borough/Census AreaAlert Level
July 19
Alert Level July 26Alert Level August 2Alert Level August 9
Anchorage Municipality171.0188.3251.6309.4
Fairbanks North Star Borough25.767.9105.0108.1
Juneau City and Borough69.2270.7239.2185.7
Kenai Peninsula Borough188.3307.1356.3565.0
Matanuska-Susitna Region56.8110.9154.7207.8
Nome Census Area**122.8*163.8*542.5
North Slope Borough**61.4*81.9*184.2*
Northwest Arctic Borough****356.1382.4
Chugach Census Area622.1592.5799.9474.0
Copper River Census Area**1,148.6629.9*296.4*
Denali Borough******387.6*
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area**144.2*201.8***
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area****119.0*178.4*
Haines Borough********
Petersburg Borough250.9*******
Sitka City and Borough1,208.51,947.71,067.7610.1
Skagway Municipality********
Wrangell City and Borough********
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon********
Ketchikan Gateway Borough**80.4*175.5431.4
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area****624.0262.7*
Bethel Census Area39.2*235.1279.8223.9
Kusilvak Census Area222.6*173.1*234.9*234.9*
Aleutians East Borough******410.3*
Aleutians West Census Area**126.3*162.3***
Dillingham Census Area******293.3*
Kodiak Island Borough95.2*333.0277.5697.8
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula********
Statewide128.7191.4233.9286.2

*Rates based on <20 observations are statistically unreliable and should be used with caution.
**Rates based on <6 observations are not reported.

Vaccination Status

  • Anyone aged 12+ in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have received an initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to get your second dose too. Scientific studies have shown that two doses of an mRNA vaccine are more effective than one dose of an mRNA vaccine, especially against emerging variants of concern.
  • Vaccinated persons with immunocompromising conditions should discuss with their health care providers the need for additional personal protective measures.
  • To schedule your vaccine appointment visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.
  • You can also visit vaccines.gov or find clinics in your area by texting your zip code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish.
  • The Alaska vaccine dashboard is available online for the most up-to-date data.

Borough/Census Area Vaccination Coverage

  • This is the percent of Alaskans aged 12+ who received one or more doses of vaccine.
Borough/Census AreaAugust 10
Aleutians East Borough87.1%
Aleutians West Census Area71.5%
Anchorage Municipality62.6%
Bethel Census Area75.0%
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula90.6%
Denali Borough68.0%
Dillingham Census Area60.9%
Fairbanks North Star Borough50.5%
Haines Borough72.4%
Juneau City and Borough79.3%
Kenai Peninsula Borough48.5%
Ketchikan Gateway Borough67.5%
Kodiak Island Borough67.6%
Kusilvak Census Area79.4%
Matanuska-Susitna Borough41.2%
Nome Census Area82.7%
North Slope Borough38.5%
Northwest Arctic Borough64.8%
Petersburg Borough65.8%
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area67.9%
Sitka City and Borough77.5%
Skagway Municipality83.7%
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area33.7%
Valdez-Cordova Census Area63.4%
Wrangell City and Borough62.2%
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon78.4%
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area79.4%
Statewide58.6%

New Hospitalizations and Deaths

  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 22 to 1,754. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
  • 12.3% of hospitalized patients in Alaska had COVID-19 as of August 10, 2021.
  • On August 7, there were 97 persons with COVID-19 in AK hospitals, which is a 6% decrease relative to the week before when there were 103 persons hospitalized.
  • The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents increased by 10 to 392. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during August 1–August 7 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.

Variant Tracking

Variants of ConcernCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Alpha (B.1.1.7)439+320 December 2020
Beta (B.1.351)7020 March 2021
Gamma (P.1/P.1.1/P.1.2)7308 February 2021
Delta (B.1.617.2-like)577+14830 May 2021
 
Variants of InterestCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Epsilon (B.1.427/429)139024 December 2020
Eta (B.1.525)1016 March 2021
Iota (B.1.526)2204 February 2021
Zeta (P.2)4027 January 2021

Vaccine Breakthrough Cases

  • Vaccine breakthrough (VB) infections of COVID-19 are those detected in a person who is at least 2 weeks beyond their second dose of a 2-dose series or the only dose of a 1-dose series.
  • From January 1–August 7, 2021, four deaths, 41 hospitalizations, and 2,314 cases with a VB infection were reported among Alaska residents. These counts are provisional and subject to change as more data are compiled. In that same time frame, a total of 28,596 cases, 641 hospitalizations, and 101 deaths were reported.
  • 92% of all cases, 94% of all hospitalizations, and 96% of deaths among Alaska residents from January 1 through August 7, 2021 were in people who were not fully vaccinated. 
  • Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report.

New COVID-19 Communication Resources

Statewide Percentage of Daily Tests with Positive Results
(Seven day rolling average)

Cases by Week of Onset and Age

Cases by Week of Onset and Race

Additional informational resources:

  • The State of Alaska COVID-19 information page provides 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: updated Monday – Friday at data.coronavirus.alaska.gov
  • For DHSS media inquiries, please contact clinton.bennett@alaska.gov

NEWS RELEASE: August 11 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES DOWNWARD CASE COUNT

SITKA, August 11, 2021 – Acting Incident Commander Rob Janik reported the case rate was trending down. He commended citizens, businesses, and visitors of Sitka for taking mitigation efforts that made the difference which included maintaining social distancing, wearing masks when around others, washing hands, and limiting the size of groups that gather. He said vaccinations were the underlying single most important mitigation to protect yourself from the pandemic. For those that were not vaccinated, Unified Command strongly encourages individuals to speak with a health care provider to get more information about vaccination. He stated there was much disinformation out about vaccines. He encouraged individuals to talk to a trusted health care provider for an educated opinion on vaccination.

Dr. Bruhl, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander thanked Acting Incident Commander Rob Janik and Thor Christianson, Assembly Liaison for the leadership and community awareness from the recent citation that was presented at the Assembly meeting on August 10 that recognized Sitka’s healthcare professionals, first responders, and frontline workers. He told of those that were working hard and the stress involved when taking care of COVID-19 patients with the recent increase in case rates. He reported that the hospital was busy with 15 to 20 patients most days. He said the number of COVID-19 inpatients had fallen from the high of 12 a week ago to 1 or 2 in the last few days. He felt it was consistent with the number of cases that had been posted to the City and Borough of Sitka’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

He told of his concerns with seeing some patients extremely sick, and that the severely ill were younger patients mainly in their 30’s. He said that was keeping with the trends nationally as well as in Alaska. Anchorage continued to see some very sick individuals with the Delta variant and that those typically were unvaccinated. He said that the vaccination was not perfect, but that it helped prevent hospitalizations and death for most people. He gave the statistic that 97 to 98% hospitalized or dying were unvaccinated individuals.

He relayed that the FDA was on the brink of a booster shot for those that were immunocompromised and felt that sometime in the short term SEARHC would be bringing those services to people that qualify although it was too soon to say how many additional clinics would take place. He reminded that vaccine registration was available to anyone regardless of if an individual had been a previous patient online at https://covid19.searhc.org/. He said that registration for vaccinations were consistently at about 70 to 80 patients a week through SEARHC and thought it was close to 100 including Harry Race’s vaccination clinics.

Dr. Bruhl reported that SEARHC continued to give monoclonal antibody treatments to high-risk patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 and that it showed to reduce hospitalization or death. He told of the surge in Haines that possibly was due to the large gathering for the state fair. He said that creating large gatherings/venues was not advisable at this time. He pointed out that there continued to be a steady stream of individuals coming into Southeast communities and he urged the community to consider having all travelers test upon arrival as an added level of safety. He said he was enjoying working with the schools with their mitigation plans and that he had submitted a request to the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for several thousand test kits for the school system and a variety of local sport teams.

SEARHC testing was available between the hours of Noon and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday across from the hospital. Individuals that were symptomatic should be seen and can go to Mountain Side Urgent Care at 209 Moller Drive.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing echoed that she felt the mitigations were making a difference and believed that it contributed to lower case count numbers. She said that distancing, masking, keeping social circles small was directly related to the decrease in numbers. She noted that the decrease was happening fast just as the increase had. She stated she had been working and would continue to work with the schools along with Dr. Bruhl.

Ewing told of concerns with Hypoxia in children with the Delta variant and the effects on young children. She said that cases in the age range of zero to 19 in the month of July were 90 with an additional 17 as of August 11. She said that most have had successful contract tracing with only three being asymptomatic, some with minor symptoms, and others in the emergency room. She stated that the goal was to keep children safely in school. She brought up the increase in Hypoxia and Silent or Happy Hypoxia and told that patients were not aware of it. She said the symptoms of hypoxia were confusion, cough, fast or slow heart rate, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, sweating, and wheezing. She said that if an individual was experiencing these symptoms to call 911 in order to check oxygen rate. Silent hypoxia was being seen with the Delta variant with common symptoms such as cough, confusion, sweating, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, fast or slow heart rate, change of color of lips from natural color, and profuse sweating without exertion. She said that a pulse oximeter was easy to use and a good tool to have if an individual had symptoms or were positive with COVID-19. She stated that a 98 to 100 rate was within normal range and that anything below 94%, a person should be seen by a health care professional. She said that they had been seeing patients with low oxygen levels and that it was not easily detectable.

Thor Christianson, Logistics reported that although there had been some price changes, supplies continued to be available.

Public Information Officers Melissa Henshaw and Jessica Ieremia reported many calls and emails with travel questions along with concerns, comments, and questions of when it was ok for an individual to go back to work if they had tested positive for COVID-19.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) reported they were getting geared up for students returning to Sitka beginning August 20. She felt they had a strong plan that included asking families to test prior to traveling, testing upon arrival, and student testing again 5 days later with restrictive activities during that time. She stated some students would be quarantining the first week off campus, but they would not be in town at least the first two weeks but also not until the community was out of the high alert level. She thanked Public Health and SEARHC for working together to put together a plan and for testing/screening along with the vaccine clinic that they would assist with. She said that MEHS should be about 80% vaccinated after the first few weeks of school.

Sitka School District Superintendent Frank Hauser stated excitement for the district to return to full day, in person instruction. Students would start on August 23. The district would continue to use a layered mitigation approach to protect students, teachers, and staff to make in person learning safe and possible. The district mitigations would correspond with and change according to the City and Borough of Sitka alert level. He stated if returning to in person school was not right for families at this time, there was the option of a home-based teacher support program to anyone interested through the REACH program that had been serving Sitka for 27 years. For questions, call 747.7514. He thanked Dr. Bruhl and Public Health for their continued support and consultation with the district.

Anne Davis, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) stated that their employees were still working from home, they were social distancing, and their offices were closed to the public.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported that there would be a vaccine clinic on Friday beginning at 10:00 a.m. next to Harry Race Pharmacy with all three vaccines available with both first and second dose for a two-dose series, and that appointment times were filling up fast. She stated that there were 38 or 39 vaccinations done last week. Citizens may register for a vaccination clinic at Harry Race Pharmacy.  

Due to the High Alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends continued mitigation: face coverings are strongly encouraged for individuals regardless of vaccination status, maintaining physical distance of 6 feet along with following CDC guidelines CDC Guidelines.

We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others. In addition, get tested but stay home if you feel ill, wear a face covering when around others, and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces on a regular basis.

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu – fever, aching, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and sometimes decreased sense of taste and smell. If you are concerned you might have contracted the coronavirus contact the COVID hotline at 966.8799. Outside of normal clinic hours, patients can contact the SEARHC 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 1.800.613.0560 to be triaged by a registered nurse. 

The Sitka Emergency Unified Command continues to urge citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race Pharmacy and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated to be safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus. Being vaccinated is the best way to protect our community.

The Emergency Operations Center encourages residents to prepare for any local emergency by ensuring each family member has a 14- day emergency supply kit, including any necessary medications.

For information on the local pandemic response, visit https://cityofsitka.org or https://covid19.searhc.org.

# # #

State of Alaska DHSS Guidelines If You Are Feeling Sick or Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services guidance applies to the general public. But if you live or work in a high-risk setting such as a correctional institution, health care facility, an assisted living facility or a fish-processing plant, talk to someone at your facility for guidance.

If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and if you are not fully vaccinated, quarantine right away to help prevent further spread to others.

A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infectious person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more when a person was infectious. This definition applies regardless of whether the infected person or close contacts were wearing masks.

For more information visit: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/exposed.aspx

See the graphic below to know what to do when: You test positive for COVID-19, you are exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms, you are exposed to COVID-19 and have ANY symptoms, or you have ANY symptoms of COVID-19 and have no known exposure.