KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Ketchikan Public Health officials tallied 13 new virus cases on Thursday, while the total number of active infections in the community rose to 126.
Regarding local hospitalization counts, the Ketchikan Public Health-maintained community information dashboard showed six people hospitalized as of its update at 4:15 p.m. Thursday.
A separate PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center dashboard, which reports the previous day's hospitalizations by 11 a.m. the following day, showed eight people were hospitalized when it updated by 11 a.m. Thursday.
According to the public health dashboard, Ketchikan’s seven-day average tally of new cases per 100,000 individuals was 877.39, nearly nine times higher than the baseline average daily case rate of the state Department of Health and Social Services’ highest virus risk level.
In the past seven days, local health officials have counted 120 virus cases in Ketchikan, according to the community’s dashboard.
The full dashboard can be accessed at www.kgbak.us/913/COVID-19/Response.
Ketchikan Pioneer Home update
Two COVID-19 cases were considered active at the Ketchikan Pioneer Home on Thursday, according to information sent via email to the Daily News by Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Communications Specialist Clinton Bennett.
One case involves a resident of the Pioneer Home, while the other involves a staff member. Bennett also noted that two weeks ago, a staff member tested positive for the virus and has since returned to work.
As of Thursday morning, Bennett wrote, “There are still no hospitalized individuals related to the home.”
Metlakatla moved down to Community Alert Level 2 on Wednesday evening, as the Annette Island Service Unit identified one positive COVID-19 case and reclassified four cases as recovered.
According to a Wednesday evening notice from the Metlakatla Indian Community, contact tracing for the case was completed.
“All COVID-19 cases are contained,” the notice read.
As of Wednesday, 10 cases were active in Metlakatla, per MIC.
COVID-19 in Alaska
Alaska’s health officials said that a decline in statewide cases has been detected, but recognized that the Southeast region is experiencing a surge in cases.
“We continue to follow different regions … and we are seeing some real surges down in the Southeast,” Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said in a Thursday press briefing.
She continued, “I think it’s important to know this pandemic isn’t behind us. We have come through a lot … even regions like Ketchikan, who have had previous surges before, are experiencing another surge.”
Mentioning Ketchikan by name, Zink said that many regions are experiencing virus cases “beyond what they’ve ever had before.”
DHSS Public Health nurse Valerie McCarney said that DHSS has been working with SEARHC and other health entities to provide vaccines in rural Southeast areas.
State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said that while cases are falling in Alaska , case counts are rising in other midwest and northern states.
“I think seasonality could well be playing a role in what we're seeing here in the United States with respect to transmission rates,” McLaughlin said, noting that other respiratory illnesses, as well as the seasonal flu and colds, also are affected by seasonality.
Regarding Alaska’s slowly declining overall case rates, DHSS Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Louisa Castrodale said that “how far it goes down and how long that’s sustained is unclear.”
Statewide case information
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Wednesday reported 445 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths as the state continued a pattern of declining case counts, although cases have hovered in the triple-digits daily since July.
All but three of the cases tallied on Wednesday involved Alaska residents — the three nonresident cases were counted in Anchorage, Kodiak and Wasilla.
Areas with 10 or more new cases identified by DHSS Wednesday included Anchorage (143), the Greater Wasilla Area (67), the Bethel Census Area (42), Fairbanks (31), the Northwest Arctic Borough (21), the Greater Palmer Area (17), Eagle River (16), the Houston/Big Lake area (13) and Petersburg (11).
Other Southeast areas with new resident cases included Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan, Metlakatla and the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area (two apiece) and Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon (one), according to DHSS.
Hospital information update
Virus-related hospitalizations have continued on a downward trend in Alaska after peaking in September and October.
As of midnight Wednesday, 142 individuals were hospitalized around Alaska due to COVID-19. Of those individuals, 139 had confirmed virus cases while three were in the hospital while under investigation for the virus.
Adult-level intensive care units were in the closed status at Alaska Native Medical Center, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center and Alaska Regional Hospital on Thursday, while units at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson hospital and Providence Alaska Medical Center were near capacity, according to a DHSS information dashboard.
The ICU at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital was listed as open.
Several other health care facilities, including those located in Ketchikan, Juneau, Petersburg, Wrangell and Sitka, did not provide updates to the hospital information dashboard on Thursday.
— Compiled by Daily News Staff Writer Raegan Miller