Alaska’s COVID hospitalizations still climbing, 1 in 5 patients now fighting virus

an entrance sign to Providence Alaska Medical Center with arrows pointing to various buildings
An entrance sign outside of Providence Medical Center on Aug. 24, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska’s already overwhelmed hospitals took on another 20 patients with COVID-19 over the Labor Day long weekend, with more than 180 people hospitalized with the virus.

The state reported 186 COVID-19-related hospitalizations Tuesday, setting a new record. That’s up from 165 the last time numbers were reported, on Friday. It also reported 2,148 new cases of the virus over the same four-day period, and two new deaths — a male Fairbanks North Star Borough resident in his fifties and a female Kusilvak Census Area resident in her sixties.

More than 20% of patients in Alaska hospitals have the virus, according to state data.

“The situation continues to take us to the breaking point,” said Jared Kosin, who runs a statewide hospital and nursing home advocacy group. “In many respects, we’re broken, in certain abilities to provide care. It’s bad.”

RELATED: Hospitals say a disaster declaration would help Alaska cope with record hospitalizations

In the Mat-Su, COVID-19-related hospitalizations nearly doubled, rising to 39 from 21 just five days previously. The region’s hospital, which had previously been accepting patients from rural areas who needed higher levels of care unavailable in Anchorage’s packed hospitals, is no longer accepting transfers.

“We are at capacity,” said Dr. Tom Quimby, the medical director for the Mat-Su hospital’s emergency room. “

Quimby said he took a phone call Sunday from the hospital in Soldotna, on the Kenai Peninsula. They wanted to send a patient to the Mat-Su, but Quimby’s hospital couldn’t accept them.

“I think they’re going to have to try to look at Seattle,” he said, noting that Washington’s health care system is also being strained.

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Kosin’s organization, the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, continues to call on residents to get the COVID-19 vaccines and to take other precautions like wearing masks. It has also asked GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy to issue a disaster declaration.

RELATED: Mass testing can keep COVID out of schools. But none of Alaska’s largest districts are doing it.

A spokesman for Dunleavy said the governor does not plan to issue such a declaration. Instead, he’s calling on the Alaska Legislature to pass two bills that he’s proposed to aid health-care providers. One is aimed at allowing nurses to be licensed in Alaska more quickly; the other would allow more health care services to be provided over the internet.

This story has been updated to include nonresidents in the case count and to add the two recent deaths reported.

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