Health

Alaska reports 53 more COVID-19 deaths, primarily from September

Alaska on Monday reported 53 more COVID-19 deaths, most of which occurred in September, as well as 1,387 new infections recorded over the weekend and hospitalizations continuing to decline.

A state health official said the new COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend follow a trend of reducing the number of cases that Alaska has seen recently, several weeks after daily COVID-19 numbers stabilized.

The state reported 445 new cases on Saturday, 641 on Sunday and 301 on Monday.

Last week, Alaska health officials said the state is finally seeing a decline in the number of daily cases after weeks of stabilization. While reported COVID-19 numbers over the weekends tend to be lower, every day with fewer cases makes health officials feel more comfortable saying that Alaska is on a downward trend, said state epidemiologist Dr. Luisa Castrodel.

Looking at the past two weeks of cases, Castrodale said the number of cases appears to be “creeping down.”

Data from the state’s COVID-19 dashboard appears to show that most of the newly reported deaths occurred in September.

COVID-19 deaths don’t always appear immediately in state virus data. Sometimes they don’t appear until after health officials review the death certificates, a process that can sometimes take several weeks.

Government agencies rely on death certificates to report COVID-19 deaths. Health officials say that if a doctor determines that a COVID-19 infection contributed to a person’s death, it will be included on the death certificate and ultimately counted in the state’s official death toll.

Of the new deaths reported Monday, 31 occurred in September, five in August, 16 in October and one in November, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.

[Alaska coronavirus Q&A: Answering parents’ questions about vaccinating children]

September was already Alaska’s deadliest month with the epidemic, but the additional 29 deaths mean that 162 of the 764 Alaskans whose deaths were linked to the disease occurred during September 2021.

Castrodale, said she expects the state will likely have finished reporting the most COVID-19 deaths in September, but there will likely be more reports in October.

“I think we’re going to have more deaths in October,” she said.

Additionally, three more non-resident deaths were reported Monday, meaning a total of 30 nonresidents have had virus-related deaths in Alaska since the start of the pandemic. Two of those deaths occurred in September and one in August.

[New Alaska data traces disproportionate experiences of COVID-19 by race, gender and vaccination status]

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The portion of COVID-19 tests that returned positive results was 7.6% on Monday based on a seven-day rolling average, down from a peak of 10.9% in mid-October.

Since July, an increase in COVID-19 driven by a highly contagious delta variant has caused a sharp rise in hospitalizations and deaths around Alaska and stretched the state’s health care system to breaking point.

Government dashboard data showed there were 128 people in hospital with COVID-19 by Monday, with about 13.6% of hospitalized patients in the state considered to have active cases of the virus. That’s down from recent weeks, when one in five patients contracted the virus more often.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect breakdown of new deaths by month.

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