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

Three Fairbanks men recently died from Covid: one in his 50s, one in his 70s and one in his 80s, according to reports from the Department of Health and Social Services from this week. The deaths were reported Tuesday and Wednesday.

The local virus transmission rate has been slowing down, however. The Fairbanks North Star Borough saw a drop in the two-week average daily case rate, which went down to 25 people per 100,000 from 50 last week. The average number of local hospitalizations went down by about a half as well, from 15 to seven people, according to the Borough Risk Matrix.

“The percent positivity in Fairbanks started to slow down, and the cases have started to slow down a bit,” Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Anne Zink said. “We are hoping to take this moment to increase vaccines so we are not counting hospital numbers in the same sort of way again and go fishing (instead) and do other fun things.”

The virus started to slow down last week, though the borough still led the state in virus transmission with rates two times higher than in most of the places in Alaska.

As far as the reasons for the recent outbreak in local Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, officials credit many sources.

“What we know about what happened in Fairbanks is that there is no big outbreak or one outbreak,” state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said. “There was just a lot of transmission occurring in different settings — school churches, military personnel, bars and restaurants and indoor gatherings.”

McLaughlin added that Fairbanks still has one of the lower vaccination rates in the state. As of Tuesday, a little more than 38% of adults in the borough were fully vaccinated. In Juneau, that number is close to 67%.

Around 98% of people hospitalized with a Covid-19 in Alaska are unvaccinated, and as the percentage of vaccinations go up for a certain group, the percentage of infections is going down, said clinical pharmacist Coleman Cutchins.

McLaughlin agreed: “Whatever we can do to increase vaccination rate, that’s how we will help reduce the transmission in the community.”

The statewide transmission rate and daily case rates decreased for the third straight week and were significantly lower than last week, according to the weekly DHSS report. With 705 cases reported in Alaskans last week, the state saw a 20.5% decrease from the week before. Besides improvement in Fairbanks, case rates continued decreasing in seven other regions, including Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Region and Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region.

“The trends are going down, and that is excellent, and we see that nationally as well,” McLaughlin said. “I hope we can get out soon and have a great time and celebrate the end of the alternative life we’ve been living.”

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