As COVID cases and hospitalizations rise in Alaska, health officials are advising caution among older adults

Anchorage School District School Nurse Kristin Studley (right) administers the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to Rae Hancock (left). Hancock was one of 771 people vaccinated at the ASD Education Center on January 7, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

COVID-19 cases are increasing in the state. Health officials are encouraging Alaskans to renew efforts to protect adults over 70.

The state health ministry reported 1,911 cases on Wednesday. That’s a 14% increase from the previous week and a 34% increase since this time last month. These numbers do not include positive home tests.

According to the department’s COVID dashboard, areas with the highest case rates in the community include Ketchikan, Denali, Bethel, Juneau, Yakutat, Haines and Skagway.

There are currently 46 people hospitalized with COVID in the state. In a public health presentation on Wednesday, state epidemiologist Dr. Anne Zink, most of them are over 70 years old.

“Even if they are vaccinated or boosted, we know that age is the biggest risk factor for COVID and serious illness,” she said.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 1,911 cases between May 18 and May 24. These numbers do not include positive home tests. (Screenshot from the DHSS COVID-19 dashboard.)

Zink said Alaskans over 70 and those living with older relatives should consider doing more to protect themselves from COVID. That could include masking in indoor public spaces, minimizing indoor gatherings, and opening windows to allow more airflow.

On June 15, the FDA will review Moderna and Pfizer’s regulatory submissions for their vaccines for children under the age of five. Zink said that in general, children are still at much lower risk of severe symptoms than older people.

“While this is super exciting news, I don’t want to stop grandma or grandpa from getting this refresher,” she said.

The recent spike in cases in the US is due to the latest Omicron variant, Zink said. Like other omicron waves, it appears to be moving more slowly towards Alaska than towards the NE.

Third sets of free at-home COVID tests are now available at Zink stressed that people with COVID symptoms should get PCR tests even if their home tests are negative. If you have been in close contact with an infected person and have no symptoms, test five or more days after contact.

The department’s next public health presentation is scheduled for September.

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