Alaska COVID cases on the rise
By Peter Loewi
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across Alaska. In a presentation last week, the state’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said that most of the hospitalized patients are over age 70, stressing the importance of vaccination and boosters. Dr. Zink also encouraged people living with elders over 70 should take more precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
Public health agencies and experts around the world are urging care to prevent COVID complacency. This complacency has ended most mitigation measures and driven requests for the vaccine way down in the past several months, despite Omicron reinfections being on the rise.
While several epidemiologists told National Public Radio that big changes were unlikely in the near future, this waning patience and immunity could cause another dangerous surge this fall and winter.
Waning immunity also seems to be driving deaths up, with those having gotten their booster three to four times less likely to die than those with only two shots. Data from the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services shows that while 81 percent of the Norton Sound and Bering Strait region have received two vaccination shots, only 41 percent have gotten their booster.
The Omicron variant caused much higher death rates for the elderly than previous waves. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Omicron caused about 60 percent more deaths in people 65 and older than Delta did, despite causing 30 percent fewer deaths in those aged between12 and 64-years-old.
Omicron was repeatedly said to be milder than previous variants due the protection afforded from vaccinations and past infections. However, a preprint paper from the United Kingdom out last week refutes many of those claims, saying “contrary to the perception that recent variants have become successively milder, Omicron BA.2 was associated with reporting more symptoms, with greater disruption to daily activities” than others. The study used data from a series on consistent surveys, reaching over 1.5 million people in the U.K. 17,000 were PCR-confirmed positive at the time of the survey. Looking at people who were vaccinated and boosted, around 5,000, patients infected with BA.2 were 64 percent more likely than those infected with Omicron (BA.1) to report that the symptoms affected their ability “a lot” to do their regular activities.
Another study, this time from South Africa, found that in mid-March, as many as 98 percent of South Africans had detectable antibodies in their blood. But even this hasn’t been enough to prevent the fifth wave they are currently experiencing.
The week in numbers
On Tuesday, May 24, Norton Sound Health Corporation identified no new cases. There were seven active cases in the region: five in Nome and two in Unalakleet.
On Wednesday, May 25, NSHC identified one new case which was from May 24. This made eight active cases in the region: six in Nome and two in Unalakleet.
On Thursday, May 26, there were no new cases reported. Active cases in the region dropped to five, with three in Nome and two in Unalakleet.
No new cases were reported over the Memorial Day weekend.
There are three known active cases in the region: two in Nome and one in Unalakleet.
The USA has had 84,045,526 officially reported cases of COVID-19 and 1,004,809 associated deaths.
Alaska, since last updated on May 25, as had 251,425 officially reported cases, 3,776 hospitalizations and 1,252 deaths. There are currently 46 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, yet another increase.
The Nome, Bering Strait and Norton Sound region has had at least 6,008 cases, 44 hospitalizations and six deaths.