Number of active COVID-19 infections among Alaskans now tops 900

SEARHC personnel test a colleague for COVID-19 at the employee screening tent behind the hospital in April 2020. (KCAW photo/Berett Wilber)

The number of active COVID-19 infections among Alaskans now tops 900.

On Monday, the state reported another 60 Alaska residents have tested positive for the virus, plus 11 nonresidents.

One more person has become sick enough to require hospitalization. The state reported no new deaths.

Alaska’s latest COVID-19 case count follows Sunday’s report of more than 100 new infections — a daily record for the state. Alaska is also recording more and more cases among younger adults.

At a news conference Monday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Alaska may be headed toward a surge in infections. Dunleavy asked Alaskans to wear face masks in crowded places and to practice social distancing to help reduce the spread of the virus.

“If we continue to behave in all aspects of our lives like it doesn’t exist, our cases are going to go up, our hospitalizations inevitably are going to go up and our deaths are inevitably going to go up,” Dunleavy said.

The Municipality of Anchorage on Monday also continued to warn that employees tasked with investigating COVID-19 infections are overwhelmed.

“We are in the middle of a significant COVID-19 case spike,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said in a statement. “Our contact tracing capacity has been overwhelmed, and we must defend our hospital capacity.”

Contact tracing is critical, Berkowtiz said, because it allows the city to track who has the virus so it can better contain it.

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said more than 125 new contract tracers will begin work soon.

RELATED: Alaska reports single-day coronavirus high as Anchorage struggles with contact tracing

Most new cases in Anchorage

A majority of the new cases reported Monday are tied to Anchorage.

Among Alaskans, the new cases are:

  • 28 residents from Anchorage 
  • 11 from Fairbanks
  • 4 from Wasilla
  • 3 from Chugiak
  • 2 from Eagle River
  • 2 from the Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula boroughs
  • 1 each from Bethel, the broader Bethel census area, Girdwood, Kenai, Kodiak, the Northwest Arctic Borough, Palmer, Seward, Soldotna and Utqiagvik

The Utqiagvik resident was traveling home from the Lower 48, tested positive for the virus in Anchorage and is in isolation in the city, said a statement from the Arctic Slope Native Association. (The state records cases based on where Alaskans are from, not where they test positive.)

Of the nonresident cases, eight tested positive in Anchorage. Two of them are tourists. The specific reasons for the others’ visits are not listed in the state database

Another two nonresident cases are in Fairbanks. One is a visitor and the reason for the second person’s visit is listed as “other.”

Also, one nonresident tested positive in Kenai. The visit purpose is also listed as “other.” 

That brings the total number of COVID-19 cases among nonresidents to 306.

The total number of cases among Alaskans now totals 1,539. That includes 620 considered recovered, 902 still active and 17 deaths.

It’s difficult to know how many of those infected are showing symptoms and how many are asymptomatic, Zink said.

RELATED: 6 tips from Alaska medical experts about minimizing your risk as the state reopens

Increase in cases among younger adults

Alaska is reporting an increase in cases in younger adults, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin. It’s a trend in other cities and states where cases are surging.

“The case counts are highest among adults in their 20s, followed by adults in their 30s and then 40s and then 50s,” McLaughlin said at Monday’s news conference. “And this is likely the main driver behind the lower incidents of hospitalizations and deaths that we’ve been experiencing.”

McLaughlin encouraged Alaskans to monitor for symptoms and get tested even if they only feel a little ill.

“Because one of the things we’re seeing with COVID is many, many people just present with very mild symptoms,” he said. “They have a mild sore throat or just feel a little achy. They may have a slight cough and they may have a fever. But remember that only half of people with COVID actually develop a fever, so you don’t have to have a fever to have COVID.”

McLaughlin said the state is watching its number of COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths, and those remain low.

The state on Monday reported 22 people in the hospital with COVID-19 or suspected to have the disease. It said 690 hospital beds and 261 ventilators are still available. 

A total of 146,590 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the state, up about 1,100 from Sunday’s report. The average percent of daily, positive tests for the past three days is 1.89%, according to the state.

Elsewhere in the country, surging case counts are driving a second round of restrictions in some cities and states, including California. Dunleavy did not announce any additional restrictions on Monday. Alaska is among more than 30 other states where new cases are increasing, but it continues to rank among the states with the lowest case counts per capita, The New York Times reports.

Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447.