Alaska’s COVID case count keeps climbing

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink in 2021. (Matthew Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

The COVID-19 omicron variant is still gaining steam in Alaska.

“Alaska continues to be on an upward trend,” the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said in a Zoom session Wednesday, presenting the latest data.

“You can see our high case rates here,” she said. “Fortunately, with omicron, we’re seeing less severe disease and so not quite the same uptake in hospitalizations.”

For the previous seven days, case counts rose 13% compared to a week prior. The figures do not include results from at-home tests.

Zink also highlighted findings from the annual vital statistics report that was just released, covering 2020, the first year of the pandemic. It found 231 COVID deaths in Alaska, plus another 34 deaths where COVID was a contributing factor.

“Again, this is 2020 data. I takes a long time for all these death certificates to come in to review it,” Zink said.

The report found COVID was the fourth leading cause of death, after cancer, diseases of the heart and fatal accidents.

More than 93% of Alaska’s cases are now attributed to the omicron variant. Zink and other state health professionals said vaccines, particularly when fully boosted, continue to provide excellent protection against serious illness and hospitalization for COVID-19.

Jared Kosin, president of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, said hospital staff absences due to COVID exposure or infection remain a huge challenge, but he said facilities are not as full as they were at the height of the delta variant wave.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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