One COVID case in the region
By Peter Loewi
Alaska again leads the nation in COVID cases. Over the last two weeks, the number of cases per 100,000 people, 72, has been the highest of any state in the nation. The test positivity rate has been 26 percent, well above the five percent treshold recommended to control outbreaks. While some people say the pandemic is over, around 400 Americas continue to die every day from the virus.
Cases in Alaska continue to rise. As in previous weeks, many of those cases are in non-residents at sea, but the places that tourists and seasonal workers visit are seeing big rises in resident cases. In addition to high case rates in the southeast, the Bristol Bay and the Denali Borough have among the highest case rates in the country right now.
Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 now make up a combined 70 percent of new cases in the country, reaching that level several weeks faster than even the previous Omicron variants. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reporting on variant tracking only includes data through the end of May, but both variants are spreading in the state.
Last week, independent advisors to the Food and Drug Administration recommended to include a component targeting the omicron variants in vaccines. In a statement, Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said that “As we move into the fall and winter, it is critical that we have safe and effective vaccine boosters that can provide protection against circulating and emerging variants to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19. Following a thorough discussion on June 28, 2022, an overwhelming majority of the advisory committee voted in favor of including a SARS-CoV-2 omicron component in COVID-19 vaccines that would be used for boosters in the U.S. beginning in fall 2022.”
The debate in the FDA meeting was about how the time lag between testing vaccines against specific variants and production of that vaccination could be impacted by future mutations. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are currently testing vaccines targeting the Omicron BA.1 variant, which was dominant six months ago. Regardless of whether a BA.4/5 vaccine is ready by fall waves of COVID, Marks continued in the press release that “a primary series with the FDA-authorized and approved COVID-19 vaccines provides a base of protection against serious outcomes of COVID-19 caused by circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2.”
Norton Sound Health Corporation Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson wrote in NSHC’s spring newsletter he “still recommends people keep up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations.” According to DHSS data, only 40 percent of Alaskans have received their first booster. Those over 50 are now already eligible for a second booster.
The week in numbers
On Tuesday, June 28, NSHC identified four new cases of COVID-19. Two new cases were found in Golovin and two new cases were found in Nome.
This made for four active cases in the region, two in Golovin and two in Nome.
No new cases were reported on Wednesday, June 29. Over the weekend, cases were reported in Koyuk and Nome. Friday, July 1 saw one new case in each of Koyuk and Nome, and Saturday, July 2 saw an additional case in Nome.
As of press time on Tuesday, there is one known active case in the region, which is in Nome.
Since the start of the pandemic, the United States of America documented 87,915,620 officially cases of COVID-19 and 1,017,988 COVID-associated deaths.
In the same time frame, the state of Alaska has had 261,987 cases, 3,781 hospitalizations and 1,252 deaths. There are currently 87 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Alaska.
Nome, the Norton Sound and Bering Strait region has had at least 6,066 cases of COVID-19, 46 hospitalizations and six deaths.