Additional actions needed, state warns, or ‘cases are expected to continue to rise rapidly’

Screenshot of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ chart of COVID-19 cases among Alaskans.

The state stepped up warnings about Alaska’s spike in COVID-19 cases in its weekly summary Tuesday, saying that without more compliance with masking and social distancing, the case count will continue to rise quickly.

“Most nonresident cases have been identified before the person had significant community interaction, so most new cases in Alaskans are acquired from other Alaskans who have not traveled,” the summary said.

RELATED: Anchorage records one-day high for COVID-19 cases

The summary underscored that activities from going into businesses to attending outdoor barbecues and sporting events have become more risky.

“Alaskans are acquiring the virus from many types of social gatherings: backyard barbecues, funerals, weddings, children’s sporting events, camps, churches and any time groups gather with others outside their household,” the state summary said.

During the week of July 12 through 18 alone, Alaska’s total cases rose by a quarter. The state is now seeing community transmission “in almost every business type that involves in-person interaction,” the summary said.

There were 399 new cases in Alaskans and 104 in nonresidents last week. Six Alaskans were hospitalized. One additional death was reported, for a total of 18.

The majority of new cases are among Alaskans aged 20-29, it said. Cases among Alaskans in their 20s and 30s are “rising sharply.”

RELATED: COVID-19 infections in Alaska are on the rise among younger adults

It noted that “Fairbanks has had very high rates of test positivity, reflecting widespread community transmission.”

“With current rates of physical distancing, face covering use and other measures to prevent transmission, cases are expected to continue to rise rapidly,” it said.  

Since last week, infections in Alaska have continued to surge.

On Monday, the state reported a record-high, one-day increase of new infections: 141. It also reported more than 100 new cases on Sunday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Anchorage health officials are warning that the city’s contact tracing infrastructure is maxed out.

Contact tracing is a key strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19 and involves finding and quarantining people who have been exposed to a person who tested positive for the virus.

A new report from Anchorage health officials last week said that the city’s contact tracers are one to two days behind making initial contact with people who tested positive, and have moved to a “triaging system, where contact tracing may not occur for every new case.”

“Focus is given to high risk cases first,” the report said.