Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
September 5 — September 11, 2021
- The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Alaska continued last week on an upwards trajectory.
- Alaska currently has more people hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to any other time during the pandemic.
- Among the 50 states, Alaska had the fourth largest percentage increase in number of persons hospitalized with COVID-19 over the past two weeks.
- Hospitalizations are continuing to occur in younger Alaskans, with the median age of persons hospitalized due to COVID-19 in 2021 being 6 years younger than in 2020.
- Among those hospitalized due to COVID-19 and with specimen collection dates from January 16, 2021 through September 11, 2021, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated patients had a median age more than 15 years younger than fully vaccinated patients.
- Hospital capacity is reaching a point in Alaska where it may become difficult to care for everyone who needs care, even for non-COVID health concerns. Some care may need to be delayed, there may be long wait times, and hospital beds may not be available.
- 4,132 cases were reported in Alaskans between September 5–September 11. This is a 0.49% increase from the week before.
- High levels of COVID-19 transmission are occurring in Alaska communities that are on the road system.
- Per capita incidence rates in Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Fairbanks North Star Borough have rapidly increased over the past few weeks and now equal or exceed rates in Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
- Rates in Juneau are quite high as well.
- The 7-day test-positivity rate in Alaska is continuing to climb and is the highest it has ever been, indicating widespread community transmission and the need for more testing.
- While the intensity of COVID-19 transmission varies substantially between communities off the road system, COVID-19 cases are regularly reported from nearly all boroughs and census areas.
- Several factors are likely contributing to Alaska’s current surge:
- The Delta variant
- Vaccination rates (Alaska currently ranks 34th out of the 50 US states in terms of the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated)
- Waning immunity (both vaccine-induced and infection-induced immunity)
- The degree to which people are engaging in community mitigation efforts to slow the spread, such as masking, social distancing, indoor ventilation, testing, isolation, and quarantine.
- Please get vaccinated if you haven’t already. Currently available COVID vaccines will help protect you, your family, and your community against COVID-19, including the delta variant.
- Wearing a mask when in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status is an important step to take to slow the spread of COVID-19. Most Alaskans live in an area with substantial or high community transmission where this action is needed to protect your health and the health of others.
- Continue to avoid crowds and practice social distancing – particularly when indoors.
- Seek testing if you have any symptoms or have been exposed to an infected person.
- If you do test positive, isolate right away, and notify your contacts. Ask them to get tested and, if they are unvaccinated, to quarantine.
- If you test positive and you’re at increased risk for severe COVID, obtain monoclonal antibody treatment. This has been shown to be an effective treatment for reducing the risk of hospitalization. This treatment works best when given early.
- Persons at high risk includes but is not limited to persons who are elderly, immunocompromised, obese, pregnant, or have certain chronic underlying medical conditions.
- Alert levels are based on the case counts over the past 7 days as well as the daily number of reported cases over the past 7 days per 100,000 population.
- Alert levels have been changed to more closely mirror CDC’s community transmission indicator and are calculated by borough and census area, rather than by region.
*Rates based on <20 observations are statistically unreliable and should be used with caution.
**Rates based on <6 observations are not reported.
**Rates based on <6 observations are not reported.
- Anyone aged ≥12 years in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
- If you have received an initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to get your second dose too. Scientific studies have shown that two doses of an mRNA vaccine are more effective than one dose of an mRNA vaccine, especially against emerging variants of concern.
- CDC recommends that people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after a second dose of an mRNA vaccine.
- Vaccinated persons with immunocompromising conditions should discuss with their health care providers the need for additional personal protective measures.
- To schedule your vaccine appointment visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.
- To find clinics in your area you can visit vaccines.gov or text your zip code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish.
- The Alaska vaccine dashboard is available online for the most up-to-date data.
New Hospitalizations and Deaths
- Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 75 to 2,134. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
- 20.4% of hospitalized patients in Alaska had COVID-19 as of September 14, 2021.
- On September 11th, there were 207 persons with COVID-19 in AK hospitals, which is a 22.5% increase relative to the week before when there were 169 persons hospitalized.
- The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents increased by 8 to 445. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during September 5–September 11 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.
Variant TrackingThe most recent Alaska COVID Genomic Surveillance report was released on September 14th.
Vaccine Breakthrough Cases
- Vaccine breakthrough (VB) infections of COVID-19 are those detected in a person who is at least 2 weeks beyond their second dose of a 2-dose series or the only dose of a 1-dose series.
- The updated VB data are among Alaska residents aged ≥12 years with a specimen collection date from January 16–September 11, 2021.
- From January 16–September 11, 2021, 18 deaths, 117 hospitalizations, and 7,429 cases with a VB infection were reported among Alaska residents aged ≥12 years. These counts are provisional and subject to change as data are compiled and reviewed. In that same time frame, a total of 36,422 cases, 966 hospitalizations, and 142 deaths were reported.
- 80% of all cases, 88% of all hospitalizations, and 87% of deaths among Alaska residents aged ≥12 years from January 16–September 11, 2021 were in people who were not fully vaccinated.
- Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report. More detailed information about hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccine breakthrough infections among Alaskan residents can also be found in the monthly report.
- Age-adjusted per capita rates of COVID-19 cases by vaccination status are updated weekly. Many COVID-19 cases with specimen collection in the immediate past week (indicated by the grey box) have not yet been reported or counted.
Age-adjusted per capita rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations by vaccination status are updated monthly. Alaska residents who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than those who are not fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 Communication Resources
- Give AK a Shot sweepstakes: The winner of the first drawing for the Alaska Chamber’s vaccination sweepstakes will be announced Thursday, Sept. 16 at noon. There are more chances to win through Oct. 30, with weekly statewide drawings for newly vaccinated individuals and one drawing for individuals who received their vaccination between December 2020 and Sept. 1, 2021.
- Recently updated webpages and reports:
- Can’t tune into a live ECHO videoconference but don’t want to miss out on the latest updates? The full schedule of ECHO sessions and access to COVID-19 ECHO videos and slideshows are available for download anytime on the DHSS ECHO web page.
- Start the 2021-22 school year healthy and strong
- Webpage: School health information for the new school year
- DEED/DHSS: Memo to Superintendents: Recommendations for keeping Alaskan K-12 students safe in school (PDF)
- DHSS: Return to School After Symptoms form (PDF) for physicians to fill out and provide to parents for when a child returns to school after testing positive for COVID-19
- Bounce Back Alaska: Resiliency resources for youth, parents, educators, and families
- Share these social media posts and graphics: Take the health equity survey | Dr. Cutchins answers a question about the Pfizer vaccine | Ivermectin misuse | Safe testing sites while sick | Child Care Stabilization Grants | Don’t travel if you’re sick
- Video PSAs:
- About the Pfizer vaccine approval with Dr. Coleman Cutchins
- Give AK a Shot Sweepstakes
- Natural immunity vs. vaccine-induced immunity with State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin
- Monoclonal antibodies treatment and misinformation about ivermectin with Dr. Coleman Cutchins
- Request support from DHSS
- DHSS offers free presentations upon request to groups about COVID-19, the vaccines, COVID-19 prevention, or other health topics upon request. Learn more or request a presentation on our Speaker’s Bureau web page.
- DHSS offers support for one-time or reoccurring COVID-19 vaccination events. Submit your request for support and provide information about the event by filling out this form.
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: data.coronavirus.alaska.gov. All dashboard data are updated Monday through Friday.
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