Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
February 21-27, 2021
Brief status report
- Virus transmission plateaued across Alaska, with several regions seeing sharp increases in cases and others continuing to see slow decrease, althoughthe overall speed of decrease has flattened since late January.
- Vaccination of Alaskans continues. Supply remains the main limiting factor.
- Case rates have seen sharp declines in communities and areas where many Alaskans have been vaccinated, such as in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. The speed of this decline is most likely attributable to a high rate of vaccination. Case rates in other regions are expected to decline as communities receive more vaccines to distribute and more Alaskans choose to get vaccinated.
- Alaska is currently the most vaccinated state per capita. 89% of the State/IHS vaccine allocation so far has been administered.
- DHSS encourages all Alaskans who are currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination to make appointments as soon as possible by visiting covidvax.alaska.gov or by calling 1-907-646-3322. The call line is staffed Monday-Friday from 9AM-6:30PM and 9AM-4:30PM on weekends. Eligibility information can be found at covidvax.alaska.gov. Alaskans receiving health services through a Tribal Health Organization or the Department of Defense should contact those organizations directly to determine their eligibility.
- Two cases of B.1.1.7, a variant of concern have been identified so far in Alaska. Both were in the Anchorage/Mat-Su area. Both were associated with travel. One case of P.1. was identified in Anchorage and was not associated with travel; investigation is ongoing. Alaska’s Public Health Laboratories continue to monitor for variants of concern as well as for other variants of interest, such as the B.1.429 variant first identified in California which may be associated with increased transmissibility. Ten cases of B.1.429 have been identified in Alaska since early January.
- Every Alaskan who chooses to wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid indoor gatherings, and get vaccinated when eligible helps protect themselves and the health of all Alaskans.
- Wearing well-fitting masks, distancing, vaccination, avoiding gatherings, following all travel requirements, and other mitigation measures are our best tools to decrease the chance of the new variant entering Alaska and spreading.
- To stop COVID-19, including new strains of virus, from coming into Alaska and spreading, testing within 72 hours before returning to Alaska or on arrival and then strict social distancing until the test result is available is recommended. A second test 5-14 days after arrival is also recommended if the traveler is not fully vaccinated. As of Jan 26, 2021, the CDC requires international travelers to show proof of a negative test from within the last 72 hours on arrival back in the US.
- CDC guidelines recommend regular asymptomatic testing for critical infrastructure workers and other groups at higher risk for COVID-19.
- Alaskans should get tested immediately at the first sign of any symptoms. Tests work best when obtained promptly after symptoms start. Testing early helps people know if they are positive quickly and helps prompt them to take immediate precautions to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
- Most Alaskans get COVID-19 from a friend, family member, or coworker. 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.
- Alaskans should avoid indoor gatherings with non-household members, avoid crowds, wear masks when around non-household members, and stay 6 feet from anyone not in their household.
Case trends and predictions
- 824 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 26.5% decrease from the week before and still reflects continued high-level community transmission throughout much of Alaska.
- 14-day average daily case rates were similar in most regions of Alaska compared with last week. The Northern Southeast Region case rate increased from 7.7 to 27.0 and the Southern Southeast Region case rate increased from 14.8 to 18.4. The Southwest Region decreased from 18.7 to 4.8.
- Persistently high case rates continue in Matanuska-Susitna Region with a case rate of 35.9 compared to 34.9 last week.
- The Yukon-Kuskokwim Region continues to have decreasing case rates now down to 21.5 from 38.8 last week and a high of 155.8 five weeks prior.
- The estimated statewide daily growth rate as of March 1, 2021 is -1.08% and new cases are expected to halve every 63.9 days based on current modeling, a little slower than last week.
Reported vaccinations as of March 1, 2020.
- The State of Alaska is working with federal, local, Tribal, and military partners to ensure that the distribution of vaccine goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
- Currently eligible groups for vaccination can be found on covidvax.alaska.gov. All registration for vaccines should go through the registration system on covidvax.alaska.gov , which also has an eligibility tool for any Alaskan unsure of when they can receive the vaccine. All updates on phases and tiers will be posted on that website and new appointments are added on a continuous basis; Alaskans are encouraged to check it frequently.
- A limited amount of vaccine is currently available with more expected to be delivered in the coming months. On March 1, the New York Times vaccination tracker had Alaska leading all other states in the percent of the population that has received at least one shot, at 23%, and two shots, at 14%. The Alaska vaccine tracker is available online as is a vaccine dashboard for more up-to-date data.
- There is a several day lag in reporting some vaccinations so the dashboard does not yet reflect all vaccinations that have been given.
- The FDA authorized the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine on February 27. This is a one-shot COVID-19 vaccine that can be stored at refrigerated temperatures and is based on the adenovirus-vectored technology used in the company’s other vaccines. Clinical trials in tens of thousands of people around the world showed high efficacy even against new viral variants, meaning that the vaccine successfully prevents severe disease, hospitalization, and death. There were no serious safety concerns; expected side effects are similar to mRNA vaccines. Distribution of this vaccine is expected to begin as early as this week.
- There are no plans to mandate a vaccine at the state level.
- The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is responsible for providing national recommendations for vaccine administration and allocation.
- During the week of February 21 through 27, 2021, 824 new Alaska cases were reported, a 26.5% decrease from last week, for a total of 56,339 cumulative cases reported in Alaskans.
- Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 1,240 with 12 reported as occurring this week. Hospitalization reports often lag and only 1,213 hospitalizations were reported at this time last week, so there are 27 hospitalizations newly reported this week including ones that began during previous weeks.
- Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 10 (297 total). One of these deaths occurred during this past week. It is common to take more than a week for a death to be reported, and more deaths that occurred during Feb 21–27 may be reported in future as death certificates are reviewed.
- 96 new nonresident cases were identified this week, for a total of 2,342 cases.
- Two cases of B.1.1.7, a variant of concern have been identified so far in Alaska. Both were in the Anchorage/Mat-Su area. Both were associated with travel. One case of P.1. was identified in Anchorage and was not associated with travel. Alaska’s Public Health Laboratories continue to monitor for variants of concern as well as for other variants of interest, such as the B.1.429 variant first identified in California which may be associated with increased transmissibility. Ten cases of B.1.429 have been identified in Alaska since early January.
- On March 1, 22 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 were hospitalized and 5 were reported to require a mechanical ventilator.
- Hospital staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19.
Additional informational resources:
- The State of Alaska COVID-19 vaccine status update page.
- The State of Alaska COVID-19 information page provides more information about the virus and how individuals and businesses can protect themselves and others from transmission.
- For the most up-to-date case information, see the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub dashboard (note: some data may change as more information comes to light through contact tracing and other public health work).
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