Alaska reported six more deaths in people with COVID-19 on Wednesday and yet another record for the number of COVID-positive people sick enough to need hospital care.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the deaths were recent. Five of the people who died were Alaskans, one was a nonresident. The state has reported a total of 442 resident deaths and 14 nonresident deaths.
The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus rose to 197 as of Tuesday, the state reported Wednesday. That’s up from 186 reported Tuesday following an increase of 12% over the Labor Day weekend.
The hospital statistics don’t include long-term COVID-19 patients who no longer test positive but continue to need care, hospital officials said this week, so they underestimate the true impact of the virus on capacity. COVID-positive patients tend to stay longer than others once admitted: At Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, the average stay for someone with the virus is three weeks.
The state also reported another 841 new cases of the virus, 808 in Alaskans and 33 in nonresidents, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services dashboard. That’s the third-highest single-day tally since the pandemic began in March 2020. The second-highest was set Friday with 888. The only day higher was in early December, at the height of the last peak, when 906 cases were reported.
Doctors say that, with vaccines available, they never thought they’d see the levels of transmission and disease filling beds throughout the state now. COVID-positive people made up nearly half the patients at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center on Monday. Statewide, more than 21% of ER visits were COVID-related, as reported Wednesday.
Health officials say the highly infectious delta variant means COVID-19 is “everywhere”: moving through families, schools and businesses as well as big events like the Alaska State Fair or concerts. They encourage everyone to wear masks in indoor settings where transmission is high and get vaccinated.
Unvaccinated people account for most of the surging hospitalizations that are taxing health-care systems in Alaska, data shows. But vaccinated people are getting infected, albeit at lower rates; they generally avoid more serious illness compared to unvaccinated people, officials say.
As of Wednesday, 61.4% of eligible Alaskans had gotten at least one dose of vaccine and 55.8% were fully vaccinated. Alaska ranked 33rd among states for per capita vaccination rates.
The state’s seven-day average test positivity rate — positive tests out of total performed — was 8.17%. Health officials say anything over 5% indicates the need for more testing.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.