Alaska reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Saturday, culminating a week of rising hospitalizations, growing concerns over health care capacity and strengthened calls for Alaskans to help curb the spread of the virus.
The state on Saturday reported 604 new cases of COVID-19 — the most recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic — and no new deaths, according to the Department of Health and Social Services COVID-19 dashboard. The previous record was 526 cases reported Oct. 25, followed by 504 cases reported Friday.
There were 95 people currently hospitalized with the virus in Alaska as of Saturday, slightly down from Friday’s record of 97 hospitalizations. Another 10 hospital patients were suspected of having COVID-19, according to state data.
The state’s hospital capacity is a concern given the rapidly accelerating number of cases, according to health officials, who have described an adequate supply of beds but increasingly strained health care staffing.
With the holiday season approaching, he also encouraged Alaskans to “not give up on your holidays … but have different holidays, just for this year.”
“We’re at the point now that we have to realize that letting down our guard, and acting like it doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it go away,” Dunleavy said in a briefing Friday. “As a matter of fact, it’s ending up infecting more of us. … We need to rethink, and reestablish a little bit of vigilance, over the next two to three months.”
Dunleavy also extended the state’s emergency disaster declaration after several hospital and public health officials voiced concern over the possibility of the declaration expiring Nov. 15. The emergency declaration is essential to managing a deteriorating public health situation, according to Jared Kosin, the head of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.
In total, 84 Alaskans with the virus have died since the start of the pandemic, and Alaska’s overall death rate per capita remains among the lowest in the country.
By Saturday, every region in the state was in a high alert zone, meaning that there were more than 10 cases on average per 100,000 people. Public health officials have said the virus is spreading largely among friends, families and co-workers at gatherings, sporting events and work.
Of the 600 resident cases reported by the state Saturday, 300 were in Anchorage, plus 19 in Eagle River, 12 in Chugiak and one in Girdwood; 42 in Wasilla; 28 in Palmer; 25 in Soldotna; 23 in Fairbanks; 16 in Chevak; 14 in Kenai; 13 in Bethel; 11 in Juneau; 10 in Ketchikan; six in Kodiak; six in Utqiagvik; five in North Pole; four in Delta Junction; three in Sterling; three in Kotzebue; three in Sitka; two in Seward; two in Homer; two in Metlakatla; two in Big Lake; two in Willow; two in Hooper Bay; one in Nikiski; one in Valdez; one in Petersburg; one in Unalaska; and one in an unidentified part of the state.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people that are not named to protect privacy, there were 15 resident cases in the Bethel Census Area; six in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; four in the Dillingham Census Area; four in the Kusilvak Census Area; three in the Nome Census Area; two in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough; two in the southern Kenai Peninsula Borough; one in the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough; one in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; and one in the North Slope Borough.
The state also reported four nonresident cases: three in Anchorage and one in an unidentified part of the state.
As of Saturday, there were 12,065 active cases of the virus among Alaska residents and nonresidents in the state. A total of 7,157 people were considered recovered.
Of the new cases, it is not reported how many patients were showing symptoms of the virus when they tested positive. While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department only represents one person.
The state’s testing positivity as of Saturday was 6.9% over a seven-day rolling average. A positivity rate over 5% can indicate high community transmission and not enough testing, health officials have said