KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Alaska’s COVID-19 case count bounced higher Sunday when the state announced 231 positive test results, another record number that lifted the state’s cumulative total of resident and nonresident cases above 3,100.
No new local cases were reported by the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center on Saturday and Sunday.
The new statewide results — which were recorded on Saturday — involve 186 Alaska residents and 45 nonresidents, according to Alaska Department of Health and Social Services data. Anchorage recorded 154 of the resident cases.
The record numbers are due to several factors, according to a DHSS statement release Sunday evening.
In addition to widespread community transmission from social gatherings and a series of large seafood industry outbreaks, DHSS said a backlog of test results had been entered into the database.
Test results submitted by fax and phone require manual verification and then manual data entry, according to DHSS. Also, test results arrive in batches and not always daily, which can add to the backlog.
"Today's high case count is partly due to our data team working to enter this backlogged data, but it also clearly shows we are experiencing widespread community transmission," DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum said in the prepared statement.
As of Saturday, Alaska had 2,132 active cases of COVID-19, 1,687 involving residents and 445 involving nonresidents, according DHSS.
The number of active cases involving Alaskans has more than doubled since July 12, when the state reported 839 active resident cases.
The upward progression has been steady since mid-May. The number of active resident cases increased 618% between May 25 and June 25, rising from 55 cases to 340. The tally increased by another 496% between June 25 (340) and July 25 (1,687).
Hospitalizations continued to tick upward during the weekend, with 43 individuals in Alaska hospitals as of midnight Saturday as either COVID-19 positive (35 patients) or under investigation for infection (8), according to DHSS.
A total of 115 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Saturday, according to DHSS.
Crum on Sunday expressed concern about the potential for strain on Alaska’s hospital bed capacity if the number of daily cases continue to be above 100.
"We have been in the management phase of this pandemic since May,” Crum said. “In order for us to continue to manage the virus, we need to stop this current surge. Daily cases over 100 will soon diminish our hospital bed capacity.”
The state on Saturday reported one death of an Alaskan, a Fairbanks man in his 70s who had preexisting medical conditions. To date, 20 Alaskans have died.
The two-day period of Friday and Saturday recorded a total of 274 resident cases; 88 on Friday and 186 on Saturday.
Anchorage continued to rack up the highest numbers of positive test results involving residents — a total of 202 recorded during the two-day period of Friday (48 cases) and Saturday (154).
On Friday evening, the Municipality of Anchorage announced that 56 of 134 staff members of the Copper River Seafoods processing plant in Anchorage had tested positive for COVID-19. Test results from another 30 workers were pending.
Nearly all of the plant workers are Anchorage residents, according to the municipality.
“This is a concerning situation for the people of Anchorage," Anchorage Health Department chief medical officers Bruce Chandler said in the prepared statement. “With so many workers now testing positive, it is likely that this outbreak has been in progress for some time and that transmission has already occurred among family, friends and others in the community."
Fairbanks accounted for 14 of the 274 resident cases, followed by seven in Wasilla, six in Palmer, and four apiece in Eagle River and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Census Area.
Three resident cases were recorded in each of the Northwest Arctic Borough and the communities of Soldotna, North Pole and Juneau. Cordova, Seward, Wrangell, the Valdez-Cordova Census Area and the Yakutat/Hoonah/Angoon area each had two resident cases. One case apiece was recorded in Ester, Haines, Kenai, North Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kotzebue, Sterling, Valdez, Unalaska, Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Chugiak, Homer, Houston, Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Sitka, and Unalaska.
A total of 72 nonresident cases were recorded on Friday (27 cases) and Saturday (45), according to DHSS data.
Seward, which had experienced an outbreak at the OBI Seafoods processing plant, recorded 54 of the 72 nonresident cases. Two others were seafood industry workers in the broader Kenai Peninsula area.
Fairbanks posted three nonresident cases, one involving a visitor and two that had not yet been classified.
A Ketchikan nonresident case was included in the state’s numbers released on Sunday. The most recent nonresident case announced by the Ketchikan EOC was a seafood processing worker whose positive result was announced on July 20.
Eleven of the new nonresident cases did not have a specific community or area posted in the DHSS data. Two involved individuals in the seafood industry. One individual is in the tourism industry, and eight individuals did not have an industry listed.
To date, 578 positive results for COVID-19 in Alaska have involved nonresidents. As of midnight Saturday, 445 nonresident cases were active.
Crum encouraged the use of mitigation measures to slow the surge of COVID-19 in Alaska.
“Let's work together to slow the spread, to protect our vulnerable, and to keep our businesses and economy running,” Crum said in the prepared DHSS statement on Sunday. “It's critical that Alaskans take this seriously. More announcements on mitigation strategy will be coming over the next couple days."