COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: September 12 – September 18, 2021

Alaska Weekly Update

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
September 12 — September 18, 2021

Intermediate Statewide transmission
Rt 1.1
HIGH Statewide alert status 781.9HIGH ALERT Hospital capacityHIGH Test positivity
9.6%
62.5%
of Alaskans aged 12+ 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 September 18th and September 19th 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.
  • Alaska currently has the highest number of cases in the last seven days per 100,000 population among the 50 states.
  • Alaska currently has more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than were hospitalized with COVID-19 at the peak of the previous surge in late November and early December 2020.
  • Among the 50 states, Alaska had the tenth largest percentage increase in number of persons hospitalized with COVID-19 over the past two weeks.
  • Hospitalizations are continuing to occur in younger Alaskans, with the median age of persons hospitalized due to COVID-19 in 2021 being 6 years younger than in 2020.
  • Among those hospitalized due to COVID-19 and with specimen collection dates from January 16, 2021 through September 18, 2021, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated patients had a median age about 16 years younger than fully vaccinated patients.
  • Hospital capacity is reaching a point in Alaska where it may become difficult to care for everyone who needs care, even for non-COVID health concerns. Some care may need to be delayed, there may be long wait times, and hospital beds may not be available.

  • 5,459 cases were reported in Alaskans between September 12–September 18. This is a 32.8% increase from the week before.
  • High levels of COVID-19 transmission are occurring in Alaska communities that are on the road system.
    • Per capita incidence rates in Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Fairbanks North Star Borough have rapidly increased over the past few weeks and now equal or exceed rates in Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
    • Rates in Juneau are quite high as well.
  • The 7-day test-positivity rate in Alaska is continuing to climb and is the highest it has ever been, indicating widespread community transmission and the need for more testing.
  • 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.
  • Several factors are likely contributing to Alaska’s current surge:
    • The Delta variant
    • Vaccination rates (Alaska currently ranks 35th out of the 50 US states in terms of the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated)
    • Waning immunity (both vaccine-induced and infection-induced immunity)
    • The degree to which people are engaging in community mitigation efforts to slow the spread, such as masking, social distancing, indoor ventilation, testing, isolation, and quarantine.

COVID-19 Guidance

Take action now to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and preserve health care capacity.

  • Please get vaccinated if you haven’t already. Currently available COVID vaccines will help protect you, your family, and your community against COVID-19, including the delta variant.
  • Wearing a mask when in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status is an important step to take to slow the spread of COVID-19. Most Alaskans live in an area with substantial or high community transmission where this action is needed to protect your health and the health of others.
  • Continue to avoid crowds and practice social distancing – particularly when indoors.
  • Seek testing if you have any symptoms or have been exposed to an infected person.
    • If you do test positive, isolate right away, and notify your contacts. Ask them to get tested and, if they are unvaccinated, to quarantine.
  • If you test positive and you’re at increased risk for severe COVID, obtain monoclonal antibody treatment. This has been shown to be an effective treatment for reducing the risk of hospitalization. This treatment works best when given early.
    • Persons at high risk includes but is not limited to persons who are elderly, immunocompromised, obese, pregnant, or have certain chronic underlying medical conditions.

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 30
Alert Level
September 7
Alert Level
September 13
Alert Level
September 20
CountRateCountRateCountRateCountRate
Anchorage Municipality1,314454.71,399484.11,571543.72,570889.4
Fairbanks North Star Borough337346.9537552.7628646.4733754.4
Juneau City and Borough142446.9158497.3100314.7250786.8
Kenai Peninsula Borough406688.9471799.2275466.6369626.1
Matanuska-Susitna Region411383.0667621.6741690.6771718.5
Nome Census Area1291,320.524245.731317.323235.4
North Slope Borough68695.91982,026.42422,476.72552,609.8
Northwest Arctic Borough54712.158764.929382.454712.1
Chugach Census Area22325.921311.126385.124355.5
Copper River Census Area14518.7*23852.225926.316592.8*
Denali Borough6332.2*10553.7*5**9498.3*
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area24346.022317.138547.851735.2
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area19376.7*23456.031614.630594.8
Haines Borough20793.79357.1*6238.1*16634.9*
Petersburg Borough8250.9*4**0**2**
Sitka City and Borough32375.513152.5*10117.3*31363.7
Skagway Municipality3**1**2**1**
Wrangell City and Borough22924.86252.2*4**1**
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon4**4**1**4**
Ketchikan Gateway Borough97709.288643.468497.269504.5
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area21344.838624.023377.729476.2
Bethel Census Area147822.7110615.6148828.3178996.2
Kusilvak Census Area35432.734420.429358.656692.4
Aleutians East Borough3**9307.7*4**2**
Aleutians West Census Area8144.3*20360.88144.3*6108.2*
Dillingham Census Area38796.1641,340.938796.144921.9
Kodiak Island Borough66523.449388.549388.586681.9
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula5**7289.3*2**18743.8*
Statewide3,455474.04,067558.04,137567.65,699781.9

*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 years 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 years who received one or more doses of vaccine.

Borough/Census AreaSeptember 21
Aleutians East Borough88.8%
Aleutians West Census Area74.6%
Anchorage Municipality66.6%
Bethel Census Area79.0%
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula91.8%
Denali Borough72,4%
Dillingham Census Area64.4%
Fairbanks North Star Borough54.3%
Haines Borough73.5%
Juneau City and Borough84.2%
Kenai Peninsula Borough51.8%
Ketchikan Gateway Borough70.7%
Kodiak Island Borough72.5%
Kusilvak Census Area82.8%
Matanuska-Susitna Borough45.2%
Nome Census Area84.6%
North Slope Borough41.1%
Northwest Arctic Borough68.0%
Petersburg Borough68.6%
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area70.2%
Sitka City and Borough83.2%
Skagway Municipality87.1%
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area37.5%
Valdez-Cordova Census Area66.0%
Wrangell City and Borough66.0%
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon80.0%
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area82.5%
Statewide62.5%

New Hospitalizations and Deaths

  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 77 to 2,211. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
  • 21% of hospitalized patients in Alaska had COVID-19 as of September 21, 2021.
  • On September 18th, there were 201 persons with COVID-19 in AK hospitals, which is a 2.9% decrease relative to the week before when there were 207 persons hospitalized.
  • The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents increased by 14 to 459. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during September 12–September 18 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.

Total Confirmed COVID Beds Occupied

Variant Tracking

The most recent Alaska COVID Genomic Surveillance report was released on September 21st.

Variants of ConcernCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Alpha (B.1.1.7)457+420 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)2245+60130 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)2404 February 2021
Mu (B.1.621)156+76 May 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.
  • The updated VB data are among Alaska residents aged ≥12 years with a specimen collection date from January 16–September 18, 2021. 
  • From January 16–September 18, 2021, 20 deaths, 135 hospitalizations, and 9,220 cases with a VB infection were reported among Alaska residents aged ≥12 years. These counts are provisional and subject to change as data are compiled and reviewed. In that same time frame, a total of 41,539 cases, 1,104 hospitalizations, and 161 deaths were reported.
  • 78% of all cases, 88% of all hospitalizations, and 88% of deaths among Alaska residents aged ≥12 years from January 16–September 18, 2021 were in people who were not fully vaccinated. 
  • Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report. More detailed information about hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccine breakthrough infections among Alaskan residents can also be found in the monthly report.
  • Age-adjusted per capita rates of COVID-19 cases by vaccination status are updated weekly. Many COVID-19 cases with specimen collection in the immediate past weeks (indicated by the grey box) may have not yet been reported or counted.

  • Age-adjusted per capita rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations by vaccination status are updated monthly. Alaska residents who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than those who are not fully vaccinated.

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:

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

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