Alaska reports 558 COVID-19 cases, no deaths and an uptick in hospitalizations over the weekend

Alaska on Monday reported 558 COVID-19 cases for a three-day period over the weekend and no deaths as the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus rose slightly.

The state reported 198 new cases for Sunday, 51 for Saturday, and 309 for Friday, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. It wasn’t immediately clear why Saturday’s cases were unusually low.

The state on Monday reported 77 people hospitalized statewide with active infections, up from 71 patients at the end of last week. Just over 8% of all hospital patients in the state are COVID-positive. Those numbers don’t include some people recovering from the disease who need continued care.

Those numbers represent a significant decrease from the high of more than 200 people hospitalized on average in September and October.

The state’s test positivity rate, which reflects the number of positive tests out of the total performed, was 4.84% as of Friday, dropping under 5% for the first time since July, when a surge linked to the delta variant started. That 5% threshold can indicate high transmission and not enough testing, epidemiologists say.

By Friday, Alaska ranked 29th among states for its seven-day COVID-19 case rate, with 255.1 cases per 100,000 people. New cases declined about 25% since last week.

Alaska health officials continue to monitor for the new omicron variant of the coronavirus that’s raising questions and concerns around the world, state health officials say. Omicron has been detected in numerous states but not yet in Alaska.

State health officials at a briefing late last week encouraged Alaskans who want to protect themselves against the omicron variant to get vaccinated or get booster shots against COVID-19 and practice the same measures — masking, social distancing, good hygiene — known to help prevent the spread of existing variants.

About 62% of Alaskans 5 and older have received one dose of the shot while 56% are considered fully vaccinated. Alaska currently ranks in the bottom third of the nation — at 32nd — for its vaccination rate.

Between mid-January and the end of November, people who weren’t fully vaccinated accounted for 70% of all COVID-19 cases, 84% of hospitalizations and 81% of deaths among Alaskans 12 and older, according to state data.

Starting Monday, the state health department shifted to updating COVID-19 dashboards three times weekly, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.