Alaska reports 2nd omicron variant case, involving Anchorage resident who traveled out of state – Anchorage Daily News

Alaska has identified its second omicron variant case, involving an Anchorage resident who had recently traveled out of state, the state health department said Wednesday.

The person involved had traveled elsewhere in the U.S. in December, and they had already reached out to close contacts and were isolating “with mild illness” when contact tracers got in touch, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The omicron case was detected through genomic sequencing by an out-of-state lab, the state health department said.

Alaska’s first omicron case was identified last week. Health officials have said they expect more cases to emerge based on the variant’s spread across the nation and world. They continue to encourage vaccinations and booster shots as the best way to protect against serious illness from COVID-19.

While much is still unknown about the new variant, some real-world data suggests that omicron may cause milder illness than the delta variant — even though omicron may be more transmissible and less often deterred by vaccines.

[Biden pledges 500 million free rapid coronavirus tests to counter omicron variant]

Alaska on Wednesday also reported 235 new COVID-19 cases over the previous two days and 30 deaths, most identified through a review of death certificates.

Four of the deaths had occurred recently while the other 26 were identified through a review of death certificates from September to December.

The deaths involved eight people from Wasilla, five people from Anchorage, three from Palmer, three from small communities in the Bethel Census Area, two from North Pole, and one each from Bethel, Fairbanks, Houston, Ketchikan, Soldotna, Willow and smaller communities in the Copper River Census Area, Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Southeast Fairbanks Census Area.

The deaths involved four Alaskans who were in their 80s or older, eight in their 70s, 12 in their 60s, three in their 50s, two in their 30s and one in their 20s.

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.

State data shows that September and October 2021 have been by far the deadliest months of the pandemic. Since the pandemic arrived in Alaska in March 2020, 945 Alaskans and 31 nonresidents in the state have died from the virus.

The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths have involved people who are unvaccinated.

Virus-related hospitalizations continued to fall statewide. As of Wednesday, the state reported 56 COVID-positive people were hospitalized across Alaska, down from 65 hospitalizations as of Monday. The percentage of hospitalizations involving people who have tested positive for the virus is 5.8%.

Just over 67% of Alaskans 5 and older as well as military members have received at least one vaccine dose, while 60% of eligible Alaskans are considered fully vaccinated. About 21% have received a booster shot.

[Dozens of Alaska doctors receive packages, at work and at home, from group promoting unproven COVID-19 treatments]

Case counts and hospitalizations have been significantly lower so far this month than during the state’s most recent surge, which peaked in the fall and was driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Other states, however, are seeing surging case counts and crowded hospitals.

Alaska’s new-case rate over a seven-day period was 40th in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The state’s overall death rate is the fifth lowest in the country.

The next state COVID-19 dashboard update is expected Monday due to the Christmas Eve holiday.

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