Updated: 7 minutes ago Published: 4 hours ago
Alaska on Friday reported 20 additional COVID-19 deaths, a sign of the lingering impacts of record-level case counts and hospitalizations the state experienced this fall.
The state on Friday also reported 526 new coronavirus infections amid a gradual decline in case counts. According to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alaska now ranks ninth highest nationally for its COVID-19 case rate over the past week, at 369.5 per 100,000 people. Through most of September and October, Alaska had the highest case rate per capita.
The recent decline in cases has translated to some relief at the state’s hospitals, where 134 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 by Friday, including 18 people on ventilators. About 13% of all hospital patients in the state have COVID-19.
Those numbers don’t include some people who are recovering from the disease and need continued care, often for several weeks after they are admitted.
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.
All of the newly reported deaths were identified through a standard death certificate review, according to a health department spokesperson. They included one death from April, two from August, five from September and 12 from October.
In total, 832 COVID-19 deaths among Alaskans and 30 among nonresidents living in the state have been recorded since March 2020. September and October 2021 have been the deadliest months of the pandemic so far, state data shows.
Statewide, about 60% of Alaskans ages 5 and older have received their first dose of the vaccine while 55% are considered fully vaccinated.
Though cases have fallen from recent peaks, health officials say boosting the state’s vaccination rate will be key to preventing future surges in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
Alaska currently ranks 32nd in the country among all states and Washington, D.C., for its per capita vaccination rate, according to CDC data compiled by The New York Times.