Alaska on Wednesday returned to a “high” risk level regarding COVID-19, after maintaining at a “medium” level since Aug. 21, according to information from the state Department of Health and Social Services.
A high risk level indicates that 10 or more new cases are being counted per 100,000 Alaskans. Alaska rose to the high level status Wednesday after hitting exactly 10 new cases per 100,000 people. The state may move back down to a medium risk level status when between five and 10 new cases are counted per 100,000 individuals, according to DHSS.
More than 100 COVID-19 cases were recorded in Alaska on Wednesday.
Of the 112 cases, all but one involved Alaska residents from 19 areas around the state, stated DHSS information.
No new cases were recorded in Ketchikan on Wednesday or Thursday, making it a full week since a new positive test result has been reported, according to the Ketchikan Emergency Operations as of 5 p.m. Thursday.
Sixty-six COVID-19 cases have been tallied in Ketchikan since March. Fifty-four of these cases involve Ketchikan residents or those who remained in Ketchikan after being tested. The other 12 cases counted in Ketchikan involve individuals who continued to travel through Ketchikan after testing. Two local cases were active as of 5 p.m. Thursday, according to the EOC. Ketchikan itself remains at a low risk level.
Areas to count new positive test results on Wednesday include Anchorage (49); Fairbanks (21); Juneau (eight); North Pole and the Fairbanks North Star Borough (five each); Wasilla (four); Chugiak, and the Bristol Bay and the Lake and Peninsula boroughs (three each); Utqiagvik and Eagle River (two each); and one each in Kodiak, Palmer, Sitka, Bethel, the Bethel Census Area, the Kusilvak Census Area, Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area and the Northwest Arctic Borough.
As of midnight Wednesday, active resident cases of COVID-19 numbered 3,830 out of a total of 6,020 total cases, according to DHSS.
The lone nonresident case tallied Wednesday had not yet been classified by location or industry by DHSS on Thursday. The new positive result brought the total number of nonresident cases to 895. As of midnight Wednesday, 692 of those cases were active. Six nonresidents have been hospitalized. No nonresident deaths have been reported in Alaska.
Two new hospitalizations were recorded on Wednesday. In total, 249 hospitalizations have been recorded in the state. Forty-two Alaskans were hospitalized on Wednesday; 39 as COVID-19 patients and three who remained under investigation for the virus. Ten individuals remained on ventilation.
The total number of COVID-19 deaths involving Alaskans remained at 42 as of midnight Wednesday, according to DHSS.
A total of 393,077 COVID-19 tests have been collected throughout the state, with a positive result rate of 1.99% across the past seven days.
In Ketchikan, a total of 15,022 tests have been administered, with 158 tests pending results.
Individuals seeking follow-up COVID-19 tests at the Ketchikan International airport’s traveler testing site on Sundays or Mondays (the days that the drive-through testing site at Berth 3 is not open) will still have to pay ferry fare, Ketchikan EOC Public Information Officer Kacie Paxton told the Daily News on Thursday. If an individual can not pay the fare, they may reach out to the EOC to discuss options.
During a brief DHSS virtual town hall on Thursday evening, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink noted that while everyone wants the COVID-19 pandemic to be over already, testing remains one of the most crucial measures in containing the virus’ spread.
“The importance of testing in this disease particularly is just paramount,” she said.
State epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said that, since March, extensive research has been completed about the benefit of keeping six feet between people to avoid the spread of the virus.
With congregating without social distancing being the biggest factor of spreading the virus, “chances are good that you’re going to come into contact with the virus,” McLaughlin explained.
Zink and McLaughlin both emphasized that during studies, transmission by “fomite” — particles that can spread disease through common surfaces, such as door handles — is not a leading cause of COVID-19 spread.
DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum said that nonresident cases in Alaska are reported to be down by 64%.
“We’ve seen our out-of-state count of cases actually decrease, because people who are entering the state of Alaska are coming in with these negative tests,” Crum said.
Crum also noted that travel mandates persist for nonresidents, but there are no current restrictions for Alaskans traveling within the state.
“This is something that is our biggest mechanism, is using the distance and separation we have from the rest of the country to protect Alaskans,” Crum said.” We’re not importing the virus into the state, so it’s something we’re going to keep in play.”