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

Updated 6:23 p.m.: State health officials report that the past week has been Alaska's worst since the pandemic began in terms of case spikes in residents and nonresidents, citing Alaska resident cases rising 34% in the last week alone.

The Department of Health and Social Services reported 91 new cases of COVID-19 statewide Wednesday, confirmed in 67 new residents and 24 nonresidents.

Five more Alaskans have become sick enough to be hospitalized, bringing the total number of hospitalizations statewide to 125.

Two Fairbanks residents are among the newly confirmed cases reported Wednesday, bringing the Fairbanks North Star Borough total to 380 –– about 68% of which are deemed active cases, meaning the individuals are still considered contagious and require isolation, according to state data.

While only two new COVID-19 positive residents from Fairbanks were reported Wednesday, a federal COVID-19 task force has identified the Fairbanks North Star Borough as one of three boroughs statewide that has seen the most significant increase in cases over the last three weeks –– the other two being the municipality of Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The three boroughs together represent more than 75% of new cases reported over the last three weeks, the task force identifies in a report.

The other 65 resident cases reported Wednesday include 51 from Anchorage, four from Wasilla, two each from Kenai and Soldotna and one each from Eagle River, Girdwood, Homer, Juneau, Prince of Wales/Hyder Census Area and Valdez.

These new cases bring the statewide total number to 2,797, about 68% of which are deemed active cases.

Also Wednesday, 24 new nonresidents are reported to have tested positive, 11 of whom are seafood industry workers in Seward.

The other 13 nonresident cases include one other unknown individual in Seward; two individuals in Soldotna, one tourism industry worker and one other unknown individual; one seafood industry worker in Valdez; two unknown individuals in Palmer; one seafood industry worker, one visitor and two unknown individuals in Juneau; and three others in unknown locations at this time.

This brings the total number of nonresidents to 645. It remains unclear at this time how many of these cases are active. Most nonresident cases have been identified before the individual has extensive interaction with the community, health officials noted in a weekly report.

Including the five new hospitalizations, there are 35 individuals statewide who are hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and 11 others who are under investigation and await test results.

The state Department of Health and Social Services does not categorize hospitalizations by borough or municipality, instead grouping the data by region. Currently, four COVID-19 positive patients are hospitalized in the Interior. One other individual who may have COVID-19 is also hospitalized in the Interior and awaits test results.

Hospital capacity remains "adequate," according to health officials but hospitalizations and deaths are increasing, the Alaska health department report noted.

No new deaths were reported Wednesday.

With the increase in cases, the federal task force recommended the mandating of masks in all public, indoor spaces. However, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has repeatedly told reporters he does not support a statewide mask mandate and will choose instead to leave the option of mandates to local communities, municipalities and boroughs.

Some communities across the state have implemented such local mandates, including Anchorage, Seward and Juneau.

The three mayors for the Fairbanks North Star Borough, City of Fairbanks and City of North Pole issued a proclamation this month urging residents to wear masks when in public and unable to maintain six feet of distance from others but have not discussed the mandating of such mask usage.

A total of 223,664 tests have been conducted. The average percentage of daily positive tests for the previous three days is 1.95%.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.