Novel coronavirus

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.

Credit: NIAID-RML

A Fairbanks man in his 30s recently died from COVID-19, according to the Saturday’s report from the health officials. This brings the number of COVID-19-related deaths across the state to 223.

Alaska reported 378 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, 51 of them in Fairbanks, 13 in North Pole and eight somewhere else in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, according to a data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Anchorage saw 119 new cases, Wasilla saw 39, Palmer 14 and Kenai 11.

“You can see in general have continued to trend down,” Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said in her Friday video update. “However, we are starting to see unfortunately a bit of a plateau, and in some areas we are starting to see an uptick in cases.”

In the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the test positivity rate for the past seven days is 6.44% which indicates widespread community transmission.

To help slow the virus, health officials continue to encourage the public to wear masks, keep their distance and avoid gatherings bigger than their immediate circle.

In terms of COVID-19 testing, in addition to reccomending those who experience symptoms and travelers to be tested, officials are suggesting surveillance — regular biweekly or weekly — testing for people who regularly interact with people outside of their household, at work or otherwise.

New COVID-19 variant

A new more transmissible variant found in other countries has not been reported in Alaska, but health officials are closely monitoring the situation.

The mutated virus does not lead to more severe illness, but because of its highly transmissible nature, more people are prone to contract it, and as a result, more people might die, state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said during a Thursday news conference.

The current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the new variant of the virus, but at some point the virus might mutate to the point where we will need an updated vaccine, McLaughlin explained.

So far, at least 25,085 Alaskans have been vaccinated.

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.

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