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Alaska approaches 4 weeks with triple-digit daily COVID-19 count in an unprecedented wave

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Alaska is in the midst of an unprecedented increase in COVID-19 cases: the current increase far exceeds other previous increases and has lasted more than three weeks.

Cases of the disease caused by the new coronavirus appear in every corner of the state – with eight of the state’s 11 regions in a high-alert zone – as Alaska reported another death and 204 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, according to the Department of Health and Social Services COVID-19 dashboard.

The increase in cases is in parallel with increasing numbers of virus cases in several parts of the lower 48. Alaska’s daily reported cases have hit triple digits for 24 consecutive days.

The death reported Saturday involved a Fairbanks man in his 90s who recently died, according to the state Department of Health. A total of 67 Alaskans with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began here in March.

Across the country, 50 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Saturday, while 18 other hospital patients awaited test results, according to state data. Admissions to COVID-19 are often referred to as a “delayed indicator,” meaning people may show up at the hospital weeks after initial testing of positives.

Of the new cases, it was not clear how many patients had symptoms of the virus when they tested positive. While people may be tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only one person.

The current increase is different from the state’s previous increase in July, state health officials said in a call with reporters Thursday: There are more cases at the moment, but there are also more tests available – though the state still needs more. In addition, there are more cases across the state in more rural areas compared to the concentrated outbreaks in fish processing plants that occurred in July.

“We have much better treatment and understanding of the disease now than we did in July, and therefore we believe it plays a role in both deaths and hospitalizations,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, during a Thursday. call journalists.

But the biggest difference between the current rise and the summer rise is that it’s colder, Zink said. More people are indoors and more are tired. Challenges only increase as more people enter the season.

“We understand this disease better every day,” Zink said. “And then we really want to encourage Alaskans to be hopeful (and) at the same time be able to be resilient. I think this fall and winter can be very challenging as things increase. ”

But it is not too late to curb the current rise in cases, health officials say.

“We know what works with COVID,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist. “We’ve demonstrated it in Alaska, we’ve demonstrated it in the United States, and we’ve demonstrated it in several countries across the globe. Mitigation works.”

Several data points and indicators are the worst they have been since the start of the pandemic.

Between October 4 and October 10, Alaska saw a continued increase in cases by 40% more cases than the week before.

The state’s reproductive number, which is the average number of people a single person infects with the virus, recently saw a “significant increase” – up to 1.18 by 10 October. A reproductive number over one means that the state epidemic is growing because each person is spreading the virus to more than one person.

The state positivity rate, or the percentage of positive tests out of the total tests, continued to rise this week with a 4.94% positivity from Saturday, just slightly lower than the national average of 5.3%.

“While many states have a higher positivity rate than Alaska, this increase is worrying because positivity is our best measure of whether our testing capacity can keep up with current cases. An increase in the frequency of positivity reflects that testing does not increase as fast as the current increase in cases, ”state health officials wrote in a recent report.

While Alaska has the lowest death rate per capita. Per capita, Vermont and Wyoming have had fewer total deaths.

State health officials say they have no reason to believe the virus in Alaska is less severe compared to elsewhere. They say recent studies show that COVID-19 strains in the state are just as severe, if not more so, than the strains in other parts of the western United States.

“This means that the virus, which is found in many communities in Alaska, has the ability to make people of all ages very ill if it is allowed to continue to spread,” state health officials said.

Over the past week, Anchorage saw a 40% increase in new cases, Drs. Janet Johnston, an epidemiologist at the Anchorage Health Department, at a briefing Friday. It was the first week in which Anchorage averaged over 100 new cases a day with 102.2 new cases a day on average.

Considering that only one in 10 people with COVID-19 is actually identified as infected, Johnston said it is possible as many as 8,500 people in Anchorage are contagious with the virus.

Across the country from Saturday, several regions of the state were tipped into the zone of high alarm with more than 10 cases per. 100,000 people reported over the last two weeks. The high alarm level indicates that there is widespread societal transmission of the virus and many undetected cases as well as frequent outbreaks, according to the state health department.

Some places, such as Anchorage, Northwest Alaska and Fairbanks North Star Borough, tripled this threshold with averages in the low 30s. Other regions, such as Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough, recently entered the red zone on Saturday with just over 10 cases per year. 100,000.

Only three regions on the state’s alert level map were not in the red zone from Saturday, including the southwestern region and much of southeastern Alaska outside the city and borough of Juneau.

Of the 201 new cases of COVID-19 involving residents, 90 were in Anchorage; three were in Chugiak; 10 were in Eagle River; one was in Girdwood; one was in Homer; one was in Kenai; four were in Soldotna; two were in Sterling; one was in Kodiak; to var i Healy; 15 were in Fairbanks; four were at the North Pole; five were in Delta Junction; two were in Tok; five were in Palmer; 15 var i Wasilla; three were in Willow; five were in Utqiagvik; 12 were in Juneau; two were in Ketchikan; three were in Petersburg; one was in Craig; one was in Unalaska; three were in Bethel; and two were in the Chevak.

Among communities less than 1,000 that were not identified to protect confidentiality, there was one in the northern Kenai Peninsula; one in Fairbanks North Star Borough; two in the Yukon-Koyukuk census area; and in the Nome Census Area; and three in the Bethel Census Area.

Of the three foreign cases, two were in Anchorage and one in Wasilla.

The state’s test positivity from Saturday was 4.94% above a seven-day rolling average.

[Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the individual who died was from Anchorage. He was a Fairbanks resident.]

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