KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Five new COVID-19 cases were identified in Ketchikan on Wednesday, according to a late afternoon update of the Ketchikan Public Health virus data dashboard.

A total of 23 cases remained under investigation as to source as of early Wednesday evening, according to the dashboard. Between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. Wednesday, Ketchikan Public Health linked seven cases to close contact, two cases to travel, three cases to community spread and classified two cases as lost to contact.

The dashboard showed that 59 local cases were still considered active infections, and two people were hospitalized in the COVID-19 unit at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.

Ketchikan Public Health officials have logged 49 cases in the past seven days and 125 cases in the past two weeks. Of the cases charted in the past seven days, 17 have involved unvaccinated individuals, seven have involved people not eligible to be vaccinated, and 20 have involved fully vaccinated people, according to the dashboard. The vaccination status of two cases was unknown on Tuesday.

Ketchikan's seven-day average of newly counted cases per 100,000 people was 336.33 on Wednesday, up from 299.6 on Tuesday.

Metlakatla update

One Metlakatla "resident traveler" tested positive while not in the community on Tuesday, and contact tracing is underway, according to a Metlakatla Indian Community notice released Tuesday evening.

Nine COVID-19 tests in Metlakatla returned negative results on Tuesday, according to MIC.  

Metlakatla remained at Community Alert Level 0.

"By taking simple and effective precautions; such as wearing a mask indoors and when around others outside of your household, social distancing and washing your hands; helps to keep our community safe," the notice read.

To date, 75 cases of COVID-19 have been counted in Metlakatla. The case detected on Tuesday was the only active case associated with Metlakatla, according to MIC.

Prince of Wales Island update

Two new virus cases were detected on Prince of Wales Island on Wednesday, according to a 4 p.m. message recorded that day on the Craig Public Health COVID-19 hotline.

One of the cases involved a resident of a community with fewer than 1,000 residents. It was deemed to be a travel-related case, according to the hotline.

"The other new case is still under investigation for residency and source of infection," the message stated.

As of Wednesday afternoon, five cases were active on the island. Cumulatively, 406 cases have been counted on POW, according to Craig Public Health.

COVID-19 in Alaska

While some of the country seems to have peaked when it comes to new coronavirus infections, state health officials on Wednesday said that Alaska is one of a handful of areas still continuing to trend upwards.

"And in fact, Alaska is leading the pack," said State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin during a regularly held virtual question-and-answer session on Wednesday. "Unfortunately right now, our incidence rate is the highest in the nation by a large margin."

Alaska ranked first in the country, with an incidence rate about twice as high as West Virginia, according to information presented by McLaughlin during the session.

McLaughlin described the state as being in a "steep, steep upward trajectory."

Alaska also ranked 41st in the country when it came to hospitalizations and 27th in the nation for virus-related deaths.

"We used to be right at the top in terms of our testing rate and percent positivity rate being the lowest in the nation," McLaughlin said.

As of Tuesday, Alaska ranked 29th, with a positivity rate of 9.2%.

Statewide case information

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 1,009 new COVID-19 cases — 976 resident cases and 33 nonresident cases — on Tuesday, in addition to four new Alaska resident deaths.

Also on Tuesday, the total number of Alaskans aged 12 or older who are fully vaccinated rose to 60%, according to an afternoon case statement from DHSS, and 63.1% of Alaskans in that age group have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

All four of the deaths reported by DHSS on Tuesday are "recent," and involve Anchorage residents, per the statement. The deceased included two men in their 40s, a woman in her 60s and a woman in her 70s.

Since the start of the pandemic, 253 Anchorage residents have died of the virus. In total, 546 Alaskans and 21 nonresidents have died of COVID-19, according to online DHSS data.

Areas with 10 or more newly reported resident cases included Anchorage (345); Wasilla (112); Fairbanks (109); Eagle River (42); North Pole and Palmer (41 each); Juneau (28); Kenai (18); Valdez and the Bethel Census Area (17 apiece); Soldotna and Chugiak (15 each); Seward (13); Kodiak (12); and Haines, Homer, Bethel and the combined Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula Borough (10 apiece).

Additional Southeast communities with new resident cases included Sitka (nine), Ketchikan (eight), Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon (six), Craig (four), Wrangell (three), Petersburg and the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area (two each), and Skagway and Metlakatla (one each).

Nonresident cases were identified throughout Fairbanks (11); Anchorage (three); Kenai, Prudhoe Bay, Sitka and Wasilla (two apiece); and Ketchikan and Valdez (one each). Nine cases were still being investigated for a location, according to the DHSS statement.

To date, 108,608 resident cases and 4,784 nonresident cases have been counted during the pandemic.

As of midnight Tuesday, 214 people were hospitalized around Alaska for COVID-19 related reasons — 207 individuals with confirmed virus cases and another seven who were hospitalized with suspected cases, according to DHSS. Thirty-nine hospitalized people were on ventilators.

The majority of Alaska's large health care facilities reported that their adult-level intensive care units were in the "closed" status, according to the DHSS-maintained hospital dashboard on Wednesday.

Those facilities included the Alaska Native Medical Center, Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital, Central Peninsula Hospital, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, St. Elias Hospital and the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hospital.

Four facilities had ICUs in the "open status" on Tuesday, according to DHSS, including PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, Bartlett Regional Hospital, Bassett Army Community Hospital and Southern Peninsula Hospital.

Some facilities also listed non-ICU areas as "closed," including Providence Seward Medical Center, Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center, St. Elias Hospital, YK Delta Regional Hospital, Central Peninsula Hospital and JBER, according to the DHSS information dashboard.

Facilities with non-ICU inpatient units listed as "near capacity" included ANMC, Alaska Regional Hospital, Providence, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Kanakanak Hospital, Providence Valdez Medical Center and Southern Peninsula Hospital.

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, Petersburg Medical Center, SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, Bartlett Regional Hospital, Norton Sound Regional Hospital, Maniilaq Health Center, Bassett Army Community Hospital and Cordova Community Medical Center all had "open" non-intensive inpatient units, according to DHSS.

Pfizer booster shot information

Booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are available around the state for individuals who previously received the Pfizer inoculation and meet certain criteria based on age and risk status.

According to online DHSS information, which cites advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals over the age of 65 (or residents of long-term care facilities) "should" receive a booster dose at least six months after their first two doses of Pfizer.

Individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 who have some underlying medical conditions also "should" receive a booster dose at least six months after their first two doses, according to the information.

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 49 who are considered to be at high risk for severe disease due to health conditions also "may" receive a booster shot, according to DHSS.

According to online information from the CDC, conditions considered to present a high risk of severe COVID-19 include cancer, chronic kidney disease, asthma, interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, dementia, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, Down syndrome, heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, hypertension, HIV, liver disease, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease or thalassemia.

Individuals who smoke or misuse substances such as alchohol, along with anyone with a weakened immune system, also is considered to have a high risk medical condition, according to the CDC.

Additionally, "People aged 18-64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot," the information read.

At this time, only Pfizer-BioNTech brand boosters are available, and are only to be administered to people who originally received two doses of that vaccine. Information regarding booster shots for those who received a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shot is not yet available.

— Compiled by Daily News Staff Writer Raegan Miller