Alaska reports 66 more COVID-19 deaths, many after death certificate reviews

Alaska on Tuesday recorded 66 more deaths tied to COVID-19, state data showed, most of which occurred this month and last.

The additional 65 Alaska resident deaths and one nonresident death brought the state’s total COVID-19 death tally up by over 10%. A total of 659 Alaska residents and 24 nonresidents have now died with the virus since January 2020.

Roughly 32% of Alaska’s 659 resident deaths tied to COVID-19 have occurred since the start of August — long after vaccines became widely available — during a sharp surge driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

Government agencies rely on death certificates to report COVID-19 deaths. If a physician judges that a COVID-19 infection contributed to a person’s death, it is included on the death certificate and ultimately counted in the state’s official toll, health officials say.

Of the new deaths reported Tuesday, 10 occurred in October, 44 occurred in September and nine occurred in August, along with one each in July, May and April.

The deaths ranged in age from someone in their 20s to people older than 80, and involved people from across the state: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Wasilla, Palmer, Big Lake, Kenai, Ketchikan, Juneau, North Pole, Homer, Seward, Hooper Bay, Cordova, Kotzebue, the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, the Kusilvak Census Area, the Bethel Census Area, the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough and Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area.

Over the long weekend, Alaska also reporting 2,842 more COVID-19 cases. The state reported 724 cases Saturday; 1,022 cases Sunday; 580 on Monday; and 516 on Tuesday.

By Tuesday, roughly 11% of COVID-19 tests conducted had returned positive results, based on a seven day rolling average.

After weeks of recording the highest case rate among U.S. states, Alaska as of Tuesday had the fourth-highest seven-day COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Montana, Wyoming and Idaho all had higher rates than Alaska, though all four were far above the national average.

Hospitalizations rose to 213 patients hospitalized with the virus and 11 others with suspected cases by Tuesday, according to state data.

Twenty health care facilities in Alaska have activated crisis standards of care, though not all are operating in crisis mode and any decisions to prioritize treatment are fluid and made on a daily basis.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.