Alaska reports 2 COVID-19 deaths, over 300 new cases and continued drop in hospitalizations Thursday

Alaska on Thursday reported the deaths of two relatively young residents linked to COVID-19 as the number of people hospitalized with the virus continued to decline.

The state also reported 347 new resident cases and two non-resident cases.

The deaths reported Thursday included an Anchorage man in his 20s and a Dillingham census-area man in his 30s. So far, 853 Alaskans and 30 non-residents have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic.

[Anchorage’s busiest COVID-19 testing site, at Loussac Library, closes with no notice as city switches contractor]

COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to decline. By Thursday, the state was reporting 71 patients with active cases of the virus in hospitals statewide. About 7% of all hospital patients in the state have the COVID virus. These numbers do not include some people who recover from illness and need continuous care, sometimes for weeks.

This is a significant decrease from the high rate of more than 200 people in hospital Since September, it peaked at more than 240 in October.

[Some Alaska hospitals no longer under crisis standards as COVID-19 patient numbers decline]

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced at a briefing Thursday that the state is extending a contract to bring 470 out-of-state health workers to Alaska for a month, through late January. Not all workers are expected to want to stay, but health officials say they are trying to find alternatives for them.

The state in September signed an $87 million contract with a company called DLH Solutions to provide additional assistance to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.

State Department of Public Health Chief Jane Wiseman said during the briefing that the state had applied for a “100% cost share” from FEMA for the extension.

Officials say help is still needed.

“Hospitals feel the pressure relief valve, and that’s probably the best way to say it,” Wiseman said. The workers allowed hospital officials to “focus on solutions and long-term problems.”

The state’s test positivity rate – the number of positive tests out of the total taken – was 5.2% as of Thursday, or just above the 5% level that generally indicates adequate testing.

During most of September and October, Alaska had the highest seven-day case rate in the country. By Wednesday, Alaska ranked 17th among the states in the seven-day rate of COVID-19 cases, with a rate of 271.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Health officials have described vaccination as the best way for Alaskans to prevent future spikes. About 61% of Alaskans aged 5 years and older have received a single dose of the vaccine while 55% are considered fully immunized. Alaska currently ranks in the bottom third of the state – at number 31 – in terms of its vaccination rate.

Alaska’s death rate has been measured over the course of the pandemic, the sixth lowest in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of Alaskan deaths per 100,000 over the past week ranked 19th in the country.

Reporter Annie Berman contributed to this story.


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