Covid-19

A Covid-19 particle is pictured in this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Covid-19 cases continue to rise dramatically across the state, faster than they did in the fall.

State health officials announced Wednesday that 472 new people in Alaska were infected with Covid-19 — 238 people on Monday and 234 people on Tuesday. A man in his 70s also died from the virus.

“Unfortunately, we are really seeing a sharp rise. Our cases right now are increasing faster than they were last October,” State Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said during a Wednesday meeting with state health officials. “This fits with a national trend.”

Zink explained that for the last two weeks, the country has seen a week over week increase in cases, with a 70% increase in last week alone. Hospitalization increased by 36% nationwide as well.

“We're seeing a similar trend in Alaska,” Zink said.

The Sitka and Anchorage areas are hit especially hard, Zink said, but many places across the state are seeing the spike. Seven of 11 Alaska regions, as well as the state as a whole, are now in the high alert transmission risk zone.

“We're starting to see more and more of Alaska turn red, unfortunately,” state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said.

According to a report from the Department of Health and Social Services, in the beginning of this week, Anchorage reported 153 new cases and Sitka reported 62. Other places with more than 10 new cases in two days include Juneau with 27, Homer with 22, Palmer with 21, Cordova with 19, Wasilla with 15, Soldotna with 14 and Kodiak with 11.

Fairbanks reported 14 new cases in two days, and our two-week average case rate is now at 3.50 cases per 100,000 people. The rate follows a gradual increase week over week.

The spread of the more transmissible Delta variant is one of the reasons for the spike. According to the Alaska Covid Genomic Surveillance report, during the week of June 27, the Delta variant represented 56% of sequenced cases.

“Delta variant is now the predominant strain in Alaska, and we know that that Delta variant is much more transmissible than other variants,” McLaughlin said.

While the percentage of vaccinated Alaskans who still got infected with Covid is now at 4.2%, about 96% of Alaska Covid hospitalizations and about 98% of Covid deaths in recent months have been in unvaccinated people.

“The big takeaway behind this is that vaccines are not perfect, but they work darn well, and they make a big difference,” Zink said.

Across the state, about 57% of residents have had at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and about 52% are fully vaccinated.

“We haven't seen these numbers change too much over the past several weeks unfortunately,” McLaughlin said. “We're very hopeful that now with this Delta variant circulating, and case counts really increasing dramatically, people who have been hesitant to get the vaccine, please come forward and get vaccinated.”

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