Alaska on Monday reported 53 more COVID-19 deaths, most of which happened in September, as well as 1,387 new infections logged over the weekend and a continued drop in hospitalizations.
Data from the state’s COVID-19 dashboard appeared to show that most of the newly reported deaths occurred in September.
COVID-19 deaths don’t always show up immediately in the state’s virus data. Sometimes they show up only after health officials review death certificates, a process that can sometimes take several weeks.
Government agencies rely on death certificates to report COVID-19 deaths. If a physician judges that a COVID-19 infection contributed to a person’s death, it is included on the death certificate and ultimately counted in the state’s official toll, health officials say.
Of the new deaths reported Monday, 31 occurred in September, five in August, 16 in October and one in November, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.
September was already Alaska’s deadliest month of the pandemic, but the additional 29 resident deaths mean that 162 of the 764 Alaska residents whose deaths have been tied to the disease occurred during September 2021.
An epidemiologist with the state, Dr. Louisa Castrodale, said she expects the state is likely finished reporting most COVID-19 deaths in September, but that there would probably more reported for the month of October.
“I would guess we’re going to have a bunch more October deaths,” she said.
In addition, three more nonresident deaths were reported Monday, which means a total of 30 nonresidents had deaths associated with the virus in Alaska since the start of the pandemic. Two of those deaths occurred in September and one in August.
The state reported 445 new cases on Saturday, 641 Sunday and 301 Monday.
Last week, Alaska health officials said the state was finally seeing a drop in daily case counts after weeks of plateau. While COVID-19 numbers reported over weekends tend to be lower, Castrodale said every day with a smaller case count makes health officials feel slightly more comfortable saying Alaska is on a decreasing trend.
The portion of COVID-19 tests returning positive results was 7.6% Monday based on a seven-day rolling average, a drop from a peak of 10.9% in mid-October.
Since July, a COVID-19 surge driven by the highly contagious delta variant has caused a sharp rise in hospitalizations and deaths around Alaska and stretched the state’s health care system to a breaking point.
There were 128 people hospitalized with COVID-19 by Monday, state dashboard data showed, with about 13.6% of the state’s hospitalized patients considered to have active cases of the virus. That’s a decrease from recent weeks, when often one in five patients had a case of the virus.
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.
Correction: A previous version of this story included an incorrect breakdown of new deaths by month.