Spread Kindness, Not Virus

Viruses don’t discriminate and neither should we. Please show compassion and support for those impacted by COVID-19. There are real people behind the COVID-19 numbers and we must respect their privacy. The Sitka Emergency Operations Center (EOC) releases as much information to the public as possible about COVID-19 to keep our community safe and to prevent the spread of the disease, but we keep details about cases confidential to protect the privacy of patients. This is required by state and federal law (namely the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

A message from Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink.

From Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink: “When times are hard, solutions are found through strength, resiliency and collectively working together against the common enemy of this virus. This will not last forever, and we are stronger together.”

Alaskans flattened the curve before; let’s crush it now. We’re tough, creative and caring; let’s protect ourselves, our families and others, especially the most vulnerable among us. We’ve got this!

For more information visit: https://cityofsitka.org/https://covid19.searhc.org/, and https://covid19.alaska.gov/

DHSS Alaska Weekly Case Analysis: October 18-24, 2020

For ease of reading, the weekly case analysis is now much shorter. Data previously included in this report can be found on the data hub at https://coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com/.

Brief status report

  • Virus transmission across Alaska accelerated for the fourth record week in a row.
  • Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have started to rise.
  • Testing is not keeping up with new cases.
  • Alaskans should get tested immediately at the first sign of any symptoms. Testing is our best tool for understanding virus transmission and risk in our communities.
  • Most Alaskans get COVID-19 from a friend, family member or coworker. Alaskans should avoid indoor gatherings with non-household members, wear masks and stay six feet from anyone not in their household.

Case trends and predictions

  • For the fourth week in a row, more cases (2,017) were reported in Alaskans this week than any previous week, a 56% increase over last week.
  • The statewide positivity rate is at a record high for the fourth week in a row. Increases in testing are not keeping up with increases in cases.
  • Cases are increasing in both urban and rural regions. The largest increase in cases was in the Anchorage Municipality, which averaged 146 new cases a day this week, for a 14-day case rate of 40.4. The largest increase in case rate was in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region, which averaged 39 new cases a day this week, for a 14-day case rate of 100.1.
  • An updated model epidemic curve predicts Alaska’s cases will continue to accelerate over the next week and are likely to double again within the next 3-4 weeks or sooner. This model does not take into account the last 7 days’ record case rates, so the true doubling rate is higher.
EPI Curve
EPI CURVE

New cases, hospitalizations and deaths

  • The week of October 18-24 saw 2,017 new cases in Alaskans, for a total of 13,012 cumulative cases in Alaskans.
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 391 with 30 reported this week.
  • Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 1 to 68 total.
  • There were 16 nonresident cases identified this week, for a total of 1052.

How COVID-19 spreads in Alaska

  • Most new infections among Alaskans are from community spread, not from travel. Most Alaskans get the virus from someone they work, socialize, or go to school with.
  • Many cases do not have a clear source, meaning that contact tracers have not been able to identify where the person got the virus. This means that there are cases in our communities that we do not know about.
  • 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.
  • Cases continue to increase fastest among Alaskans aged 20-39, however the proportion of cases in older Alaskans increased slightly again this week. This follows patterns seen in other states of increases in viral transmission occurring in younger age groups first, then followed by increases in older age groups, after which typically an increase in hospitalizations and deaths is seen.

Regional case trends

Behavioral Health RegionAverage new cases Sept 5- Sept 19Average new cases Sept 12- Sept 26Average new cases Sept 20- Oct 3Average new cases Sept 27- Oct 10Average new cases Oct 4- Oct 17Average new cases Oct 18- Oct 24
Anchorage Municipality13.216.121.528.932.240.4
Fairbanks North Star Borough15.916.321.235.033.329.9
Interior Region except Fairbanks North Star Borough3.14.97.911.317.121.6
Juneau City and Borough16.312.37.47.814.123.5
Kenai Peninsula Borough1.82.53.68.012.025.7
Matanuska-Susitna Region4.74.05.99.711.525.8
Northern Southeast Region3.14.24.92.82.47.7
Northwest Region15.627.930.735.739.136.2
Southern Southeast Region***2.24.33.2
Southwest Region3.53.54.76.47.29.2
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region8.48.77.122.337.2100.1
Statewide10.211.716.321.424.333.3

*Insufficient data; low case rate

Positivity rates

Positivity Rates
  • The statewide test positivity rate went from 4.9% to 5.9% this week, which is the fourth week in a row that it is the highest it has ever been.
  • Currently, the national average is 6.2%. Since Alaska’s per-capita testing capacity is more robust than 90% of states, a positivity rate near the national average is concerning. Source: Johns Hopkins
  • Test positivity can tell us if testing is adequate in an area. The goal is a positivity rate <2%. If the rate is over 5%, it means we are likely missing a lot of cases in that area.
  • Test positivity is affected by the number of tests performed as well as the number of new cases in an area.

Health care capacity

  • Hospitalizations hit record highs for the second week in a row.
  • Currently, 57 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 are hospitalized. 13 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 are currently requiring intensive care. Two days this week, more than 55 Alaskans were hospitalized with COVID-19 at one time.
  • Hospital staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19.
Total Confirmed

COVID-19 and travel

  • Travel is not currently thought to be a main factor in most new COVID-19 infections in Alaska, meaning that most Alaskans who get COVID-19 are getting it from social, work or family contacts rather than travel.
  • Travel for gatherings remains risky and gets more risky as cases rise across the US. The risk is from being in close contact and enclosed spaces with others while traveling as well as gathering with friends and family members indoors who may have COVID-19 and not know it.
  • Alaskans must follow Health Mandate 10.1 when returning from out-of-state travel.

What Alaskans should do

  • Anyone with even one new symptom of COVID-19 (fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea), even if it is very mild, should get tested for COVID-19 right away and immediately isolate themselves from others by staying home, staying away from others, and not leaving their house except to seek testing or other medical care. Tests are most accurate in the first few days of symptoms, so testing as soon as possible after the first symptom starts is important, even if the symptom is very mild. Getting tested right away also helps contact tracers move as quickly as possible.
  • Alaskans can help contact tracers work to slow the spread of COVID-19 by answering the phone promptly and providing accurate information.
  • Alaskans should avoid gatherings, wear masks when around any non-household member, keep six feet of distance from anyone not in their household and wash hands frequently to slow community transmission of COVID-19.

Further information

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

DHSS Press Release: As COVID-19 cases rise, DHSS adds personnel and provides added regional support

October 25, 2020 ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today announced 526 new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska – 520 residents and six nonresidents. Following yesterday’s record high case count, this represents another significant escalation of COVID-19 cases in Alaska.  As reported yesterday, the increase is due to widespread community transmission, increased testing in many communities and efforts by the Division of Public Health to enter backlogged case data.

 All but three of the state’s regions are now in the high alert zone (average daily case rate over 14 days per 100,000 is >10 cases/100,000). For detailed information about today’s cases, as well as current hospitalization data, please visit the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub.

With the rise in cases comes increased efforts by DHSS and Unified Command, including a new team tasked with regional community engagement and support. The Division of Public Health is in constant communication with communities around the state to identify specific needs and deliver support.

“We’re doing all we can, with the full support of our governor, to respond vigorously to this increase in cases,” said DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum. “While DHSS provides support to Alaska’s communities, we’re also asking all Alaskans to step up their COVID prevention efforts to help flatten the curve again. While the vast majority of today’s cases are younger than age 60, the saturation of the virus in the community increases the likelihood that our vulnerable populations such as older Alaskans or others at risk of severe illness will be infected, and these are the groups we are especially trying to protect. This won’t last forever, but right now we are asking all Alaskans to come together and slow this community spread and protect the most vulnerable among us.”

 Additional recent support to Alaska’s communities includes:

  • Additional testing: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently sent 50 new Abbott ID rapid testing machines to Alaska that will be distributed across the state. These rapid tests will be used for emerging case clusters and to protect congregate settings such as homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, correction facilities, schools and workplaces.
  • Public Health Nursing support: Public Health Nursing sent a strike team that responds to outbreaks to Bethel this weekend to assist with testing, contact tracing and community education.
  • PPE and testing supplies: On Friday, the DHSS warehouse shipped 1,400 pounds of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing equipment to Bethel. That shipment includes gloves requested by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Heath Corporation. The DHSS warehouse is also continuing to ship PPE and testing supplies throughout Alaska.
  • Alternate care sites: Hospital capacity is still holding steady, but as always, the state continues to maintain the Alaska Airlines Center alternate care site. Hospitals continue to maintain their on-campus surge capacity and offsite alternate care sites. Norton Sound Health Corporation is establishing a new alternate care site.
  • New personnel and additional contracting help: The Division of Public Health, along with procurement and human resources, are continuing to hire contact tracers and data entry personnel and to purchase critical PPE supplies. Additional testing contractors are also being brought on to ensure accessible and affordable testing throughout the state.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Isolate yourself if you feel any cold-like symptoms and get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.
  • Avoid crowded places and gatherings with anyone outside your immediate household, especially indoor gatherings; keep social circles very small.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people outside of your household.
  • Always have a mask on when you are around people outside of your household — even if you can maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
  • Wash your hands often and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and objects.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, notify all of your close contacts immediately; you can use the tracking sheet on the back of this flyer to help.
  • Please answer the call if a public health contact tracer calls you and follow their guidance.

Assistance

  • If you or your family need food, housing, or other non-medical assistance, please contact Alaska 2-1-1 (dial 211 or 800-478-2221) or your local emergency operations center for help.

Stay informed about COVID-19

# # #

DHSS Press Release: Alaska reports new high for COVID-19 cases; public health officials urge Alaskans to take prevention measures seriously

October 24, 2020 ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today announced 355 new people identified with COVID-19 in Alaska – 353 residents and two nonresidents. This represents a significant increase over yesterday’s total count of 242 new cases.

Alaska’s COVID-19 cases are accelerating, driven by widespread community transmission throughout most of Alaska, with all but three of the state’s regions now in the high alert zone (average daily case rate over 14 days per 100,000 is >10 cases/100,000).

Over the past weeks, clinics and communities statewide have been increasing testing and identifying more cases, which are reported to the Section of Epidemiology (SOE), Division of Public Health. SOE has augmented data entry efforts by hiring additional staff and streamlining processes but has not been able to keep daily pace with these reports. New cases are continuing to be identified while SOE works through backlogged data entry. Based on the cases currently being entered today from SOE, the number of cases expected to be reported tomorrow to the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub will likely be even higher than today’s count.

When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they are first notified of their result by testing facilities or providers. The public health contact tracing team has also been expanding capacity to meet the increased needs, but because of the data reporting backlog, it may be several days before cases are entered into the system and a contact tracer can call those who test positive. In the meantime, those who test positive are urged to immediately call their own close contacts. The sooner close contacts can self-quarantine, get tested, and isolate if needed, the better to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Individual Alaskans working together have the power to slow down COVID-19, protecting our elders, our friends, our families and our health care capacity,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. “Alaskans are strong and resilient, and we care for each other. COVID-19 has asked a lot from all of us. Our current situation will not last forever. There is much to be hopeful about with more treatment options and vaccines on the horizon, but now is the time for all of us to take all the steps we can as individuals and as communities to help slow the spread.”

“The science has clearly shown that prevention works,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin.  “Until we have a safe and effective vaccine, we need all Alaskans to double their efforts and follow COVID-19 prevention strategies in their daily lives.”

To prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Isolate yourself if you feel any cold-like symptoms and get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.
    • If you or your family need food, housing or other non-medical assistance, please contact Alaska 2-1-1 (dial 211 or 800-478-2221) or your local emergency operations center for help.
  • Avoid crowded places and gatherings; keep social circles very small.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people outside of your household.
  • Always have a mask on when you are around people outside of your household – even if you can maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
  • Wash your hands often and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and objects.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, notify all of your close contacts immediately; you can use the tracking sheet on the back of this flyer to help.
  • Please answer the call if a public health contact tracer calls you and follow their guidance.

Stay informed about COVID-19

# # #

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES HOW SITKA’S MITIGATION EFFORTS ARE PAYING OFF

SITKA, October 21, 2020 – This week Unified Command discusses waste water testing and our mitigation efforts.

Incident Commander, John Leach stated we have remained at Low Alert Level, praised the community, and encouraged everyone to remain vigilant and keep following our mitigation guidelines. It is working. The City Wastewater Analysis Report came back showing undetectable traces of COVID-19. Wastewater testing is a reliable data set that shows virus shed in our waste stream. This data supports our 0.07 14 day rolling case count. It doesn’t mean there are no cases in town but should ease concerns about asymptomatic cases and it shows our mitigation efforts are the right ones.

Go to https://cityofsitka.org/ to read the full City Wastewater Analysis Report.

Denise Ewing, Public Health Nurse, reported a possible vaccination could be available as early as end of November to early December. It will come in 2 phases. There are hurdles and challenges to overcome with the storage, handling and tracking. Vaccinations will roll out first to healthcare providers, essential workers, over 65 and people with underlying medical conditions. There will not be a vaccine mandate.

The State is predicting positive case rates to accelerate and double every 26 days. The State has on boarded more contact tracers to stay on top of new cases. If someone from the State of Alaska calls, please answer your phone.

Janelle Vanasse, Mt. Edgecumbe Superintendent is expecting to welcome approximately 40 more students between October 30 – November 2. Students will quarantine off campus.

Rob Janik, Planning Section Chief, wants to commend our community members, visitors and business for their mitigation efforts especially in the face of what our neighbors in Juneau are experiencing. Juneau is a high alert level and locking down due to the level of disease transmission in their community.

Jay Sweeney, Finance Section Chief, stated FEMA continues to ask for numerous information requests. We have yet to receive any payment for any projects back to March.

Thor Christianson, Logistics Operations, spoke to the high alert level in the state and wonders if it would be worthwhile to ask community members to take advantage of airport testing when traveling in -state.

Sitka Unified Command urges citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others and keeping your social circle small. In addition, 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 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  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. 

Free COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic patients is available every weekend. Residents can receive a self-swab nasal test between the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at the Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center Testing Site, no appointment necessary. For more information, contact the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline at 966.8799. Results are available in approximately seven (7) days.

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 cityofsitka.org or covid19.searhc.org.

# # #

DHSS COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: Oct. 11- 17, 2020

Brief status report

  • Transmission continues to increase in Alaska.
  • Hospitals continue to see a steady rate of cases with currently 4.68% of the hospitalized patients being hospitalized for COVID.
  • Test positivity continues to rise across most parts of the state, suggesting more testing is needed. 
  • It is vitally important that Alaskans get tested at the first sign of any symptoms. Testing is our best tool for understanding virus transmission and risk in our communities and to empower individuals to prevent the spread of COVID to others. 
  • Most Alaskans get COVID-19 from a friend, family member or coworker. Alaskans should wear masks, stay six feet from non-household members and avoid indoor gatherings.  

Case trends and predictions

  • For the third week in a row, more cases (1,294) were reported in Alaskans this week than any previous week. Alaska continues to see an acceleration in new cases. 
  • Positivity rates are rising in many areas across Alaska. The statewide positivity rate is at a record high for the third week in a row. Rises in positivity rate reflect that increases in testing are not keeping up with increases in cases.  
  • Cases are increasing in both urban and rural regions. The largest increases in case rates were in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region and the Interior Region excepting the Fairbanks Borough. The Northwest Region continues to have the highest two-week average case rate of any region of the state and again saw increases this week.  
  • The daily state case rate as of October 17 data is 24.3, up from 21.4 on October 10, a 14% increase. This number is cases per 100,000 people averaged over the last 14 days. The state alert level is high. 
  • Compared to other states’ case rates, Alaska’s average case rate per capita over the last 7 days (25.5 average daily cases over the last week per 100,000) is now the seventeenth highest of US states, just below New Mexico and worse off than Mississippi. If Anchorage were its own state, its 7-day case rate (31) would put it at rank #10, between Iowa and Arkansas. The Y-K Delta Region would be #4 with a 7-day rate of 44, between Montana and Wisconsin. Nationally, cases have been rising since mid-September, and increases have been seen in most states this week. 30 states currently have 7-day average case rates over 15 per 100,000, up from 26 last week.
  • The reproductive number, a measure of contagion, is currently estimated to be approximately 1.1. A reproductive number of 1 means that each person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 gives it on average to one other person, so this increase means that Alaskans with COVID-19 are spreading it more readily than they were two weeks ago. A reproductive number of more than 1 also means that the epidemic is growing, and the goal is to have enough people wear masks, stay at least 6 feet from others, and stay home and get tested when they are sick that Alaska’s reproductive number decreases to well below 1. Our reproductive number was below 1 as recently as late August. 
  • An updated model epidemic curve predicts Alaska’s cases will continue to accelerate over the next week. As recently as three weeks ago, cases were now expected to double every 105 days, with a daily projected growth rate of 0.66%. Cases are now expected to double about five times as fast, around every 22 days with a daily projected growth rate of around 2.2%.  
  • Nonresident cases, which peaked in late July, decreased over August and currently average around 5 new nonresident cases identified per day.
  • Alaska continues to have the fewest COVID-19 related deaths per capita of any US state, but now has more total deaths than both Vermont and Wyoming. 

Regional trends

  • Anchorage Municipality, the Northwest Region and the Y-K Delta Region all had substantial increases in case rates this week and continue to experience high levels of community transmission. The largest and most concerning acceleration seen was in the Y-K Delta Region, with a 67% increase in case rate from 22.3 to 37.2. Anchorage Municipality’s case rate increased by 11% from 28.9 to 32.2. 
  • Fairbanks North Star Borough remains at a very high case rate, 33.3, slightly decreased from 35.0 last week. This may be a true decrease or a factor of limitations in testing; as testing expands in Fairbanks more data should be available.   
  • Northwest Region increased by 10% from 35.7 to 39.1, remaining the highest rate of new cases of any borough reported. 
  • The Interior Region remained in the high alert level this week with an increase to 17.1 from 11.3. 
  • Mat-Su, Juneau and Kenai moved into the high alert level this week, with case rates of 11.5, 14.1 and 12.0, respectively. 
  • The Southwest region remains the intermediate alert level with a rise from 6.4 to 7.2. 
  • The Southern Southeast Region also saw an increase in cases this week but remains at the low alert level.
  • The Northern Southeast Region saw a decrease in case rates this week and also remains at the low alert level.

Regional case trends

Behavioral Health RegionAverage new cases  Aug 30- Sept 12Average new cases Sept 5- Sept 19Average new cases Sept 12- Sept 26Average new cases Sept 20- Oct 3Average new cases Sept 27- Oct 10Average new cases Oct 4- Oct 17
Anchorage Municipality13.513.216.121.528.932.2
Fairbanks North Star Borough17.115.916.321.235.033.3
Interior Region except Fairbanks North Star Borough2.73.14.97.911.317.1
Juneau City and Borough13.416.312.37.47.814.1
Kenai Peninsula Borough2.21.82.53.68.012.0
Matanuska-Susitna Region4.34.74.05.99.711.5
Northern Southeast Region2.13.14.24.92.82.4
Northwest Region10.715.627.930.735.739.1
Southern Southeast Region2.5***2.24.3
Southwest Region4.23.53.54.76.47.2
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region6.0 8.48.77.122.337.2
Statewide8.710.211.716.321.424.3

*Insufficient data; low case rate 

New cases, hospitalizations and deaths

  • The week of October 11-17 saw 1,294 new cases in Alaskans, for a total of 10,980 cumulative cases in Alaskans. 
  • This is the highest number of new cases in one week ever reported in Alaska, for the third week in a row. 
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 361 with 37 new this week.
  • Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 3 to 67 total.
  • There were 35 nonresident cases identified this week, for a total of 1036. 

How COVID-19 spreads in Alaska

  • Most new infections among Alaskans are from community spread, not from travel. Most Alaskans get the virus from someone they work, socialize, or go to school with.
  • Many cases do not have a clear source, meaning that contact tracers have not been able to identify where the person got the virus. This means that there are cases in our communities that we do not know about. 
  • 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.
  • The distribution of cases among people of different races and ethnicities has not changed significantly since last week.
  • Contrary to what has been seen in recent weeks, with the proportion of cases previously increasing most rapidly in Alaskans aged 10-39, the proportion of cases in Alaskans aged 40-69 increased slightly this week compared to previous weeks, although there were still higher numbers of new cases seen in Alaskans aged 20-39 than any other groups. This follows patterns seen in other states of increases in viral transmission occurring in younger age groups first, then followed by increases in older age groups, after which typically an increase in hospitalizations and deaths is seen.

Distribution of cases compared to population distribution and distribution of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity

  • Includes data from all cases reporting one or more races. Based on these data, American Indian and Alaska Native as well as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations are disproportionately affected. One factor limiting interpretation is that a greater proportion of tests from the Alaska Native Tribal Health system currently have race indicated than tests from other sources, which may mean that cases in Alaska Native People are more likely to be reported as such than cases in people who receive care through non-tribal health systems. However, this should not significantly impact Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population case counts. 
  • If race or ethnicity is not identified with the initial test, contact tracers will attempt to collect this information, but these data are often delayed resulting in many cases still labeled under investigation or unknown. Additionally, people who are hospitalized or have died with COVID-19 are more likely to have a race identified. 
Race Percent of Alaska population*Number of casesPercent of cases of those for whom a race is knownIn cases of that race/ethnicity, percent who were/are hospitalizedIn cases of that race or ethnicity, percent who have died
American Indian and Alaska Native15.6%2,49829.4%4.6% 1.0% 
Asian6.5%5155.2%5.0% 1.4% 
Black/African American3.7%4415.2%3.4% 0.7%
Hispanic ethnicity**7.3%79311.4%***2.6%0.1%
Multiple races7.5%5055.9%2.8%0%
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander1.4%5176.1%10.6% 1.4% 
White65.3%3,63742.8%2.5%0.7%
Other 3914.6%3.1% 0%
Unknown or not yet identified 2,476 1.3% 0%
All cases for whom a race is known 8,504 3.9%0.8%
All cases 10,980 3.3%0.6%

*Based on US Census Bureau 2019 estimates: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/AK

**By federal convention, ethnicity is not mutually exclusive of race, so cases identifying Hispanic ethnicity are also counted under a race category.  

***Reports the percent of cases of those for whom an ethnicity is known.

Distribution of cases compared to population distribution and distribution of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by age group

Includes data from all cases. For all ages, the percent of cases in that age group who have been hospitalized or who are deceased is either the same or decreased from last week. Hospitalizations and deaths tend to lag new cases by several weeks, so we expect to see case numbers rise (and percentages therefore fall) well before we see substantial increases in hospitalizations or deaths. 

Age group (years)Percent of Alaska population*Number of casesPercent of casesIn cases of that age group, percent who were/are hospitalizedIn cases of that age group, percent who have died
<1014.2%5725.2%0.5%0%
10-1913.3%1,17210.7%0.3%0%
20-2915.2%2,59823.7%0.8%0%
30-3914.7%2,07518.9%1.5%0.1%
40-4911.7%1,50713.7%3.3%0.3%
50-5912.8%1,42513.0%4.6%0.5%
60-6911.3%1,0099.2%7.1%1.2%
70-794.7%4303.9%16.7%5.3%
80+~2%**1921.7%22.9%9.4%
All cases 10,980 3.3%0.6%

*Based on US Census Bureau 2019 estimates via Census Reporter: https://censusreporter.org/profiles/04000US02-alaska/

**Margin of error is at least 10% of the total value

Distribution of cases compared to population distribution and distribution of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by sex

SexPercent of Alaska population*Number of casesPercent of casesIn cases of that age group, percent who were/are hospitalizedIn cases of that age group, percent who have died
Male52%5,51150%3.4%0.8%
Female48%5,46850%3.1%0.5%

*Based on US Census Bureau 2019 estimates via Census Reporter: https://censusreporter.org/profiles/04000US02-alaska/

Testing trends

  • Testing increased at a steady rate throughout May, June and July, slowed in mid-August, and is starting to increase again. The rising positivity rate is a clue that we are not increasing testing as quickly as cases are increasing, however. Over half a million tests have been performed so far in Alaska (532,711) and current laboratory turnaround times average 1-3 days. 
  • Alaska has the capacity to continue expanding testing. DHSS can assist in materials for setting up new testing sites and is pursuing all avenues for expanding testing. 

Positivity rates

  • The statewide test positivity rate went from 4.6% to 4.9% this week, which is the third week in a row that it is the highest it has ever been. Positivity rate is calculated by dividing the number of positive tests by the total number of tests performed over a given period of time, averaged over the past seven days. Statewide test positivity had not been above 3% since April, and had never before exceeded 3.5%, but has been climbing from below 2% in early September and the increase has accelerated. 
  • Currently, the national average is 5.3%. While many states have a higher positivity rate than Alaska does, this rise is concerning because the positivity rate is our best measure of whether our testing capacity can keep up with current cases. A rise in positivity rate reflects that testing is not increasing as fast as the current increase in cases. Since Alaska’s per-capita testing capacity is more robust than 90% of states, the finding that the positivity rate is nearing the national average is concerning. Source: Johns Hopkins
  • The reported test positivity rate is currently highest in the North Slope Borough at 13.2%, increased from 6.3%, although is limited by being based on a smaller number of tests. Fairbanks North Star Borough improved to 7.0% from 11.8% last week. Anchorage Municipality has a test positivity rate of 5.9%, an increase from 5.0%. Other areas with high test positivity rates include the Valdez-Cordova Census Area (7.8%), Kenai Peninsula Borough (6.2%), Southeast Fairbanks Census Area (5.9%) and Bethel Census Area (5.5%).  Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon reports an 8.7% positivity rate but this is based on a very small number of reported tests and the region case rate is fortunately low.
  • Test positivity is a good measure of whether testing is adequate in a given area, since it is affected by the number of tests performed as well as the number of new cases in an area. However, because it depends so much on the number of tests performed, it tells us more about whether we are doing enough testing than about how much virus is spreading in a community. It cannot be used to compare the amount of virus spread in one state to another, but it can be used to compare whether different states are doing adequate enough testing to be able to measure their case rate. It is also affected by any delays in reporting, since positive tests are sometimes reported faster than negative tests. A case rate can give good information about how much virus is spreading in a community, as long as the test positivity is low, so these measures can work together to help us understand the spread of virus in a community. A community test positivity rate under 5% is currently generally accepted as being low enough to estimate that a community’s case rate is reasonably accurate. 
  • In late August, Alaska led the nation in most tests per capita and continues to be among the top 3 states in tests per capita. Alaska’s high testing rates likely affect our hospitalization and death rates, since in places where tests are restricted to people who are very ill, many asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic COVID-19 cases are missed. In Alaska, testing is somewhat more available in many communities than in many communities in the lower 48, so we may detect more COVID-19 cases relative to the real number of people with COVID-19 than in states that do less testing per capita. Hospitalization and death rates are calculated by dividing the number of people who were hospitalized or who died by the number of people in that group that were known to have COVID-19, regardless of the severity of their illness. 
  • We do not have a reason to believe that the strains of COVID-19 are any less virulent in Alaska than elsewhere; in fact, in the genetic studies done so far of COVID-19 strains circulating in Alaska, virus that was as virulent or more so than that circulating in the Western United States was identified. This means that the virus present in many communities in Alaska has the ability to make people of all ages very sick if it is allowed to continue to spread. 

Health care capacity

  • Hospitalizations hit record highs this week.
  • Currently, 45 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 are hospitalized, as well as 28 with suspected COVID-19. 11 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 are currently requiring a mechanical ventilator. This week saw three days with 50 or more Alaskans hospitalized with COVID-19 at one time; the previous highest occupancy was 45, reached briefly in August and again in September. 
  • Hospital data includes inpatient beds and ventilators located all around the state, including some in smaller hospitals without ICU capacity. Hospital beds also do not necessarily represent staffed beds, as staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19. 

COVID-19 and travel

  • Travel is not currently thought to be a main factor in most new COVID-19 infections in Alaska, meaning that most Alaskans who get COVID-19 are getting it from social, work or family contacts rather than travel. New cases in nonresidents have diminished since summer peaks, averaging around five new cases per day over the last week, up from around three per day the previous few weeks.
  • Testing in airports is now in its 19th week, with 340,131 passengers screened total, 12,406 in the past week. In the last week, 5,207 (43%) travelers tested prior to travel, 4,957 (40%) tested in the airport, 1,342 (11%) selected a 14 day quarantine and 900 (7%) traveled for fewer than 72 hours or followed another workplace and community protection plan. Of those tested in AK airports, 49 positive tests have been reported so far, a 1% positivity rate. Not all airports have completed reporting for the week so this number is preliminary and may rise. Since airport testing began, 169,411 (50%) of travelers have tested prior to travel, 106,649 (31%) have been tested in an airport in Alaska, 34,811 (10%) have selected a 14-day quarantine, and there have been 585 positive tests overall for an average positivity rate of 0.56%. 

What Alaskans should do 

  • Anyone with even one new symptom of COVID-19 (fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea), even if it is very mild, should get tested for COVID-19 right away and immediately isolate themselves from others by staying home, staying away from others, and not leaving their house except to seek testing or other medical care. Tests are most accurate in the first few days of symptoms, so testing as soon as possible after the first symptom starts is important, even if the symptom is very mild. Getting tested right away also helps contact tracers move as quickly as possible. 
  • Alaskans can help contact tracers work to slow the spread of COVID-19 by answering the phone promptly and providing accurate information.
  • Alaskans should avoid gatherings, wear masks when around any non-household member, keep six feet of distance from anyone not in their household and wash hands frequently to slow community transmission of COVID-19.

Further information

Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force submits draft vaccination plan to CDC

October 20, 2020 ANCHORAGE – The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) submitted Alaska’s draft COVID-19 Vaccination Plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last Friday for review, as required for all states. The Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force prepared the document over the past several weeks as part of ongoing preparations for a safe and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine across the state of Alaska.  

The Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force is a partnership between DHSS and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). As a national leader in Tribal health, ANTHC works in partnership with Tribal health organizations of the Alaska Tribal Health System.

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink considers statewide trust and safety to be crucial components of the planning efforts. “We are closely watching the progress of clinical trials to ensure no steps are missed during the clinical trial and data review process. For any vaccine made available to Alaskans, safety will remain our top priority. The initial data looks promising, but we will continue to follow it carefully.” 

“The Alaska Native Health Board appreciates DHSS recognizing the importance of collaboration with the Alaska Tribal Health System in taking an inclusive and coordinated approach in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and in the vaccination plan,” noted Alaska Native Health Board President and CEO Verné Boerner.

The Alaska COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force consists of eight teams, each co-led by ANTHC and DHSS personnel: planning, operations, software solutions, payers, pharmacy, communications and education, data, and a liaison team. This organization allows the task force to incorporate federal guidance and begin gathering relevant community perspectives in each domain. 

“Even though we do not know when or what type of vaccine will be available, we do know that we want to be prepared. Submitting this plan to the CDC is just the first step in the planning process, and we expect to make changes as new information becomes available,” said Tessa Walker Linderman, DHSS lead for the task force.

The task force is regularly assessing and incorporating guidance from the CDC regarding vaccine access and prioritization. The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available in limited supply at first, and the CDC will provide recommendations on prioritization of initial supply. Populations with prioritized access to the vaccine may include health care workers, staff and residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities, people at risk for severe COVID-19 illness, people at risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19, and critical infrastructure workers. 

Key planning partners are preparing for vaccine availability, including the Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association. President and CEO Jared C. Kosin stated, “We are in constant communication with leaders from Alaska’s hospitals and nursing homes so that we will all be ready for distribution of a vaccine to caregivers on the front lines. Our health care heroes continue to lead us through this crisis and effective distribution of the vaccine will be crucial to moving beyond the pandemic.”

The task force has also begun to meet with local partners as they will play critical roles throughout the vaccine distribution process. Local planning teams will engage many key pharmacy, vaccine provider, and point of dispensing (POD) partners, as well as being in position to capitalize on strengths at the community level and communicate about their areas of need. 

Matt Bobo, manager of the Alaska Immunization Program stated, “The plan highlights how the Alaska Immunization Program will use our existing vaccine provider network and accountability systems to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. Though there are unique considerations for the COVID-19 vaccine, our program already works with over 200 health care organizations to prevent and control vaccine-preventable disease in Alaska.” Health care facilities that wish to provide the vaccine will be able to enroll in a COVID-19 vaccine program, which is expected to open for enrollment in the coming weeks.

The draft plan and more information on Alaska’s COVID-19 vaccination planning can be found on the COVID-19 Vaccine Information webpage. a direct link to the plan can be found here.

Stay informed about COVID-19

No Signs of COVID-19 Found in City Waste Water Treatment Plant

Wastewater was tested for COVID-19 using a sensitive PCR test for coronavirus RNA. Wastewater samples were processed to obtain purified RNA, which was tested in the Conoco Phillips Integrated Science Building laboratory at UAA by a validated COVID-19 PCR detection assay, with a detection limit of <100 COVID-19 RNA copies/L (UAA, 26 June 2020). Methods for detecting SARS-CoV-2 in sewage are adapted from CDC protocols and detects genetic fragments of the virus. It does not determine if the virus is
dead or alive or the number of infected people.

See the attached report below for more information.

DHSS COVID-19 Weekly Case Analysis for October 4-10

Case trends and predictions

  • More cases (1,256) were reported in Alaskans this week than any previous week, beating last week’s record number of new cases (891) by more than 40%. Alaska continues to see a sharp acceleration in new cases. 
  • The sharp acceleration affected urban and rural regions. The largest increases in case rates were in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region, Anchorage Municipality and Fairbanks North Star Borough. The Northwest Region continues to have the highest two-week average case rate of any region of the state and saw increases this week.
  • The daily state case rate as of October 10 data is 21.4, up from 16.3 on October 3, a 31% increase. This number is cases per 100,000 people averaged over the last 14 days. The state alert level is high.
  • Compared to other states’ case rates, Alaska’s average case rate per capita over the last 7 days (25.5 average daily cases over the last week per 100,000) remains at the thirteenth highest of US states, just below Wyoming (27.3) and worse off than Missouri (24.4). If Anchorage were its own state, its 7-day case rate (34) would put it at rank #6, between Utah and Idaho, and if Fairbanks were a state, its 7-day rate of 40.7 would make it #5 in the nation, just behind Wisconsin. The Bethel Census Area would be #4 with a 7-day rate of 49, while the Northwest Arctic Borough’s 7-day case rate of 75 puts it at a higher average case rate this week than any state average in the US. Nationally, cases have been rising since mid-September, and increases have been seen in most states this week. 26 states currently have 7-day average case rates over 15 per 100,000 and an additional 17 states saw increases in their 7-day average case rate this week.
  • The reproductive number, a measure of contagion, is currently estimated to be approximately 1.18, a significant increase from 1.03 two weeks ago. A reproductive number of 1 means that each person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 gives it on average to one other person, so this increase means that Alaskans with COVID-19 are spreading it more readily than they were two weeks ago. A reproductive number of more than 1 also means that the epidemic is growing, and the goal is to have enough people wear masks, stay at least 6 feet from others, and stay home and get tested when they are sick that Alaska’s reproductive number decreases to well below 1. Our reproductive number was below 1 as recently as late August. 
  • An updated model epidemic curve predicts Alaska’s cases will continue to accelerate over the next week. Two weeks ago, cases were now expected to double every 105 days, with a daily projected growth rate of 0.66%. This projection has worsened, with cases now expected to double around every 20 days and a daily projected growth rate of around 3.5%.
  • Nonresident cases, which peaked in late July, decreased over August and until this week had remained at an average of around 3 new nonresident cases per day; this week around 5 new nonresident cases were identified per day.
  • Alaska continues to have the fewest COVID-19 related deaths per capita of any US state, but now has more total deaths than both Vermont and Wyoming. 

Regional trends

  • Anchorage Municipality,  Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Northwest Region and the Y-K Delta Region all had substantial and concerning increases in case rates this week, indicating accelerating cases and high levels of community transmission. The largest acceleration seen was in the Y-K Delta Region, with the two-week average case rate more than tripling, from 7.1 to 22.3. Fairbanks North Star Borough saw a 65% increase in case rate, from 21.2 to 35.0, while Anchorage Municipality’s case rate increased by 34% to 28.9 from 21.5 last week.   
  • Northwest Region increased by 16% from 30.7 to 35.7, remaining the highest rate of new cases of any borough reported.
  • The Interior Region moved into the high alert level this week with an increase to 11.3 from 7.9.
  • Mat-Su saw another significant case increase this week and is nearing the high alert level, with a case rate of 9.7 from 5.9 last week.
  • The Southwest region entered the intermediate alert level with a rise from 4.7 to 6.4.
  • Juneau City and Borough remains in the intermediate alert level with a modest increase this week from 7.4 to 7.8.
  • The Interior Region, Kenai and Northern Southeast Region also saw increases this week but remain at the low alert level.

Regional case trends

Behavioral Health RegionAverage new cases Aug 16 – 29Average new cases Aug 23- Sept 5Average new cases  Aug 30- Sept 12Average new cases Sept 5- Sept 19Average new cases Sept 12- Sept 26Average new cases Sept 27- Oct 3Average new cases Oct 4- Oct 10
Anchorage Municipality12.614.113.513.216.121.528.9
Fairbanks North Star Borough10.813.717.115.916.321.235.0
Interior Region except Fairbanks North Star Borough7.94.32.73.14.97.911.3
Juneau City and Borough5.16.313.416.312.37.47.8
Kenai Peninsula Borough5.82.92.21.82.53.68.0
Matanuska-Susitna Region6.24.94.34.74.05.99.7
Northern Southeast Region6.35.22.13.14.24.92.8
Northwest Region12.711.010.715.627.930.735.7
Southern Southeast Region6.15.22.5Insufficient data; low case rateInsufficient data; low case rateInsufficient data; low case rate2.2
Southwest Region1.72.34.23.53.54.76.4
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region7.37.66.0 8.48.77.122.3
Statewide7.07.98.710.211.716.321.4

New cases, hospitalizations and deaths

  • The week of October 4-10 saw 1,256 new cases in Alaskans, a 41% increase from the week of September 27 -October 3’s 891 new cases, for a total of 9,686 cumulative cases in Alaskans. 
  • This is the highest number of new cases in one week ever reported in Alaska. The previous week, Sept 27- Oct 3, was the second highest. The third highest was 740 cases, reported between July 26 and August 1. 
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 324 with 24 new this week.
  • Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 2 to 60 total.
  • There were 36 nonresident cases identified this week, for a total of 1001. 

How COVID-19 spreads in Alaska

  • Most new infections among Alaskans are from community spread, not from travel. Most Alaskans get the virus from someone they work, socialize, or go to school with.
  • Many cases do not have a clear source, meaning that contact tracers have not been able to identify where the person got the virus. This means that there are cases in our communities that we do not know about. 
  • 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.
  • The distribution of cases among people of different races and ethnicities has not changed significantly since last week.
  • Cases continue to increase most rapidly in young adult Alaskans, especially those aged 20-29, and among Alaskans 10-19 and 30-39. 

Distribution of cases compared to population distribution and distribution of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity

Includes data from all cases reporting one or more races. Based on these data, American Indian and Alaska Native as well as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations are disproportionately affected. One factor limiting interpretation is that a greater proportion of tests from the Alaska Native Tribal Health system currently have race indicated than tests from other sources, which may mean that cases in Alaska Native People are more likely to be reported as such than cases in people who receive care through non-tribal health systems. However, this should not significantly impact Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population case counts. 

If race or ethnicity is not identified with the initial test, contact tracers will attempt to collect this information, but these data are often delayed resulting in many cases still labeled under investigation or unknown. Additionally, people who are hospitalized or have died with COVID-19 are more likely to have a race identified. Because many cases that previously had unknown race or ethnicity now have an identified race or ethnicity, numbers of cases in different race and ethnicity categories have increased since last week beyond the number of new cases, so these numbers affect both newly diagnosed and newly categorized but previously counted cases. 

Race Percent of Alaska population*Number of casesPercent of cases of those for whom a race is knownIn cases of that race/ethnicity, percent who were/are hospitalizedIn cases of that race or ethnicity, percent who have died
American Indian and Alaska Native15.6%2,19729.6%4.9% 1.0% 
Asian6.5%4345.8%5.5% 1.2% 
Black/African American3.7%4035.4%2.5% 0.5%
Hispanic ethnicity**7.3%7337.6%***2.6%0.1%
Multiple races7.5%4075.5%3.2%0%
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander1.4%4806.5%10.8% 1.5% 
White65.3%3,16742.6%2.8%0.8%
Other 3454.6%3.2% 0%
Unknown or not yet identified 2,253 1.1% 0%
All cases for whom a race is known 7,433 4.0%0.8%
All cases 9,686 3.3%0.6%

*Based on US Census Bureau 2019 estimates: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/AK

**By federal convention, ethnicity is not mutually exclusive of race, so cases identifying Hispanic ethnicity are also counted under a race category.  

***Reports the percent of cases of those for whom an ethnicity is known.

Distribution of cases compared to population distribution and distribution of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by age group

Includes data from all cases. For all ages, the percent of cases in that age group who have been hospitalized or who are deceased is either the same or decreased from last week. Hospitalizations and deaths tend to lag new cases by several weeks, so we expect to see case numbers rise (and percentages therefore fall) well before we see substantial increases in hospitalizations or deaths. 

Age group (years)Percent of Alaska population*Number of casesPercent of casesIn cases of that age group, percent who were/are hospitalizedIn cases of that age group, percent who have died
<1014.2%4985.1%0.6%0%
10-1913.3%1,01710.5%0.2%0%
20-2915.2%2,34124.2%0.8%0%
30-3914.7%1,84019.0%1.5%0.1%
40-4911.7%1,31613.6%3.3%0.3%
50-5912.8%1,24912.9%4.7%0.5%
60-6911.3%8839.1%7.4%1.2%
70-794.7%3773.9%17.8%6.1%
80+~2%**1651.7%23.0%8.5%
All cases 9,686   

*Based on US Census Bureau 2019 estimates via Census Reporter: https://censusreporter.org/profiles/04000US02-alaska/

**Margin of error is at least 10% of the total value

Distribution of cases compared to population distribution and distribution of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by sex

SexPercent of Alaska population*Number of casesPercent of casesIn cases of that age group, percent who were/are hospitalizedIn cases of that age group, percent who have died
Male52%4,83950%3.6%0.8%
Female48%4,84650%3.1%0.4%

*Based on US Census Bureau 2019 estimates via Census Reporter: https://censusreporter.org/profiles/04000US02-alaska/

Testing trends

  • Testing increased at a steady rate throughout May, June and July, slowed in mid-August, and is starting to increase again. Over half a million tests have been performed so far in Alaska (505,924) and current laboratory turnaround times average 1-2 days. 
  • Alaska has the capacity to continue expanding testing. DHSS can assist in materials for setting up new testing sites and is pursuing all avenues for expanding testing. 

Positivity rates

  • The statewide test positivity rate went from 3.9% to 4.6% this week, which is the second week in a row that it is the highest it has ever been. Positivity rate is calculated by dividing the number of positive tests by the total number of tests performed over a given period of time, averaged over the past seven days. Statewide test positivity had not been above 3% since April, and had never before exceeded 3.5%, but has been climbing from below 2% in early September and the increase has accelerated.  
  • Currently, the national average is 5.0%. While many states have a higher positivity rate than Alaska does, this rise is concerning because the positivity rate is our best measure of whether our testing capacity can keep up with current cases. A rise in positivity rate reflects that testing is not increasing as fast as the current increase in cases. Since Alaska’s per-capita testing capacity is more robust than almost any other state, the finding that the positivity rate is nearing the national average is concerning. Source: Johns Hopkins
  • The reported test positivity rate is currently highest in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, with a rate of 11.8%, increased from 10.5% last week. Anchorage Municipality has a test positivity rate of 5.0%, an increase from 4.6%; similarly the Mat-Su Borough, Bethel Census Area and Valdez-Cordova Census Area have rates around 5%. The North Slope Borough’s reported test positivity rate is now 6.25%, significantly improved from that reported last week (19.2%), although is limited by being based on a smaller number of tests. The Northwest Arctic Borough’s positivity rate is reported as 2.7%, much better than last week’s rate of 6.4%. 
  • Test positivity is a good measure of whether testing is adequate in a given area, since it is affected by the number of tests performed as well as the number of new cases in an area. However, because it depends so much on the number of tests performed, it tells us more about whether we are doing enough testing than about how much virus is spreading in a community. It cannot be used to compare the amount of virus spread in one state to another, but it can be used to compare whether different states are doing adequate enough testing to be able to measure their case rate. It is also affected by any delays in reporting, since positive tests are sometimes reported faster than negative tests. A case rate can give good information about how much virus is spreading in a community, as long as the test positivity is low, so these measures can work together to help us understand the spread of virus in a community. A community test positivity rate under 5% is currently generally accepted as being low enough to estimate that a community’s case rate is reasonably accurate.  
  • In late August, Alaska led the nation in most tests per capita and continues to be among the top 3 states in tests per capita. Alaska’s high testing rates likely affect our hospitalization and death rates, since in places where tests are restricted to people who are very ill, many asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic COVID-19 cases are missed. In Alaska, testing is somewhat more available in many communities than in many communities in the lower 48, so we may detect more COVID-19 cases relative to the real number of people with COVID-19 than in states that do less testing per capita. Hospitalization and death rates are calculated by dividing the number of people who were hospitalized or who died by the number of people in that group that were known to have COVID-19, regardless of the severity of their illness. 
  • We do not have a reason to believe that the strains of COVID-19 are any less virulent in Alaska than elsewhere; in fact, in the genetic studies done so far of COVID-19 strains circulating in Alaska, virus that was as virulent or more so than that circulating in the Western United States was identified. This means that the virus present in many communities in Alaska has the ability to make people of all ages very sick if it is allowed to continue to spread. 

Health care capacity

  • The data hub has been updated to reflect adult and ICU hospital bed capacity around the state. Adult bed occupancy can also be viewed at the following link which appears at the top of the data hub page: https://coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com/datasets/table-6c-geographic-distribution-of-adult-hospital-survey-results/data 
  • Hospital data includes inpatient beds and ventilators located all around the state, including some in smaller hospitals without ICU capacity. Hospital beds also do not necessarily represent staffed beds, as staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19.
  • Currently, 36 Alaskans with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are hospitalized. Of these, 8 are currently requiring a mechanical ventilator. 

COVID-19 and travel

  • Travel is not currently thought to be a main factor in most new COVID-19 infections in Alaska, meaning that most Alaskans who get COVID-19 are getting it from social, work or family contacts rather than travel. New cases in nonresidents have diminished since summer peaks, averaging around five new cases per day over the last week, up from around three per day the previous few weeks.
  • Testing in airports is now in its 18th week, with 327,725 passengers screened total, 12,712 in the past week. In the last week, 4,911 (39%) of travelers tested prior to travel, 4,800 (38%) tested in the airport, 1,388 (11%) selected a 14-day quarantine and 1,613 (13%) followed another workplace and community protection plan. Of those tested in AK airports, 37 have been reported as positive, for a 0.8% positivity rate. Since airport testing began, 164,204 (50%) of travelers have tested prior to travel, 101,692 (31%) have been tested in an airport in Alaska, 33,469 (10%) have selected a 14-day quarantine, and there have been 551 positive tests overall. This does not include anyone who tested positive later in their travel quarantine or isolation period, only those who tested positive at time of entry.
  • The positivity rate in airport tests has been significantly higher than average in the past three weeks, averaging 0.84% compared to an overall average of 0.54%. As expected, the airport test positivity rate continues to be much lower than the state’s average positivity rate as these tests are performed in people who believe themselves to be well enough to travel, and many travelers to Alaska test before they arrive in Alaska, meaning that many infections are likely caught before a traveler arrives.
airport1
aiport2
airport3

What Alaskans should do 

  • Anyone with even one new symptom of COVID-19 (fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea), even if it is very mild, should get tested for COVID-19 right away and immediately isolate themselves from others by staying home, staying away from others, and not leaving their house except to seek testing or other medical care. Tests are most accurate in the first few days of symptoms, so testing as soon as possible after the first symptom starts is important, even if the symptom is very mild. Getting tested right away also helps contact tracers move as quickly as possible. 
  • Alaskans can help contact tracers work to slow the spread of COVID-19 by answering the phone promptly and providing accurate information.
  • Alaskans should avoid gatherings, wear masks when around any non-household member, keep six feet of distance from anyone not in their household and wash hands frequently to slow community transmission of COVID-19.

Further information

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