Alaska’s hospitals report declining numbers of COVID-19 patients and fewer staff call-outs

Alaska’s waning COVID-19 surge associated with the omicron variant appeared to be loosening its grip on the state’s hospitals this week.

Hospital capacity has been limited by staff sick calls linked to the virus as well as supply chain disruptions and a high number of ill patients, including those with COVID-19, health and hospital officials say. At times, hospitals in Anchorage reported hundreds of workers out sick or quarantined.

Now, the number of COVID-positive patients is dropping, but more importantly, the state’s larger hospitals say worker call-outs are declining too, according to Jared Kosin, president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.

Generally, staff call-outs are starting to stabilize and decline, Kosin said Monday, adding that some smaller rural facilities are still struggling with worker absences.

“We’re in a much more stable place and it does look like we’re starting to take our ride down,” he said.

As of Sunday, there were 127 people hospitalized with the virus across the state, a decline compared to the roughly 150 COVID-positive people hospitalized at the peak of the latest surge.

[Slowdown in Alaska’s COVID-19 case rate is a potential sign of omicron surge’s peak]

The state’s chief medical officer said cases were appearing to “maybe plateau-ish” last week.

On Monday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 3,021 new resident cases over the past three days: 567 Sunday; 817 Saturday; and 1,637 on Friday. Another 61 cases were reported in nonresidents.

Alaska reported a 2.2 % decline in cases between last week and the week before, and a 27% week-to-week decrease in cases earlier in the month. Still, Alaska’s seven-day case rate continues to lead other U.S. states, according to a CDC tracker.

The number of cases from Anchorage declined two weeks in a row at the end of January, suggesting a sustained downward trajectory, health officials say. But the number of reported cases in Mat-Su and on the Kenai Peninsula climbed compared to the prior week.

Much of the state is still in what’s considered a high-alert zone, meaning more than 100 cases are being reported per 100,000 people.

This week, the state health department switched from including newly reported deaths in COVID-19 data updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to including that information in its Wednesday updates only.

Health officials continue to underscore the importance of being vaccinated against the virus. In December 2021, unvaccinated Alaskans were 13.8 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated Alaskans.

Statewide, 61.8% of Alaskans ages 5 and older had completed their primary series of the COVID-19 vaccine.