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 20s has died from Covid-19, state health officials reported Thursday, as local virus transmission rates continue to lead the state.

On Thursday alone, more than one-fourth of all Alaskan cases — 22 total — were registered in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Most of the people contracting the virus are in their 20s and 30s, according to the state Covid-19 Case Dashboard.

“While a lot of folks in our community have moved on beyond Covid, we haven't and our staff hasn’t,” said Shelley Ebenal, executive director at Foundation Health Partners. “We are not out of Covid. I know our community is tired, and I know they don't want to wear a mask, and I know they want this to be over, and that’s great; I get it. But it’s not.”

During the last week of April, cases jumped up by 13% in Fairbanks, while most Alaska regions reported a decrease in the spread of the disease. For comparison, the Fairbanks case rate was at 50%, and besides second-worst Mat-Su region, the rate was below 20% everywhere else in Alaska.

Besides the dire virus transmission in the Fairbanks region, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital is experiencing a crisis too. A record number of Covid patients, a lack of equipment needed to treat them, staff shortages and the hospital nearing bed capacity are among the issues health officials are sharing.

The three-day average of Covid patients is at 14 — one of the highest numbers the borough has seen. In the beginning of April, that number was three. From 13 ICU beds available, nine were occupied on Thursday; from 56 regular beds, 51 were taken.

FHP Chief Medical Officer Dr. Angelique Ramirez recently said that the case rate increase might be caused by a set of issues, including the spread of the more transmissible B11.7 variant originally registered in the United Kingdom. However, the low vaccination rate is the issue she highlighted the most for Fairbanks. The region stays at the bottom in the vaccination rates across the state.

“The least immunized communities are the communities that have the highest case rates,” Ramirez said.

So far, more than half of all adults in Alaska received one dose of the vaccine. To analyze how many more people will get vaccinated, state health professionals surveyed more than 1,000 Alaskans. Nearly half of responders said that they had not received the Covid-19 vaccine or booked an appointment, and half of those said they aren’t planning to. Around 22% of responders were unsure.

The main reasons for not planning to get vaccinated were the idea that the person wasn't prone to get sick from the virus, that the vaccines can be unsafe in the short or long term, and that the vaccines were developed too quickly.

Fairbanks is hosting several vaccination events this weekend where people can ask their questions about the vaccine, share their concerns and see what their health providers have to say. 

Friday

• Vax clinic at the reopening of Regal Goldstream & IMAX, 1855 Airport Way, 3-9 p.m.

Saturday

• J.P. Jones Community Center, 2400 Rickert St., 1-5 p.m.

• Saturday's Ice Dogs hockey game at the Big Dipper, 1920 Lathrop St., 6-9 p.m.

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