BA.2 variant pushing a spike in COVID-19 cases in Alaska


Shane Ersland


The BA.2 variant has become the dominant COVID-19 strain in Alaska, and is pushing a spike in case counts in the state.


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Alaska had 1,675 positive COVID cases from May 11th-17th. That was an 11% increase from the previous week (May 4th-10th), in which the state had 1,506 positive cases. Alaska had 1,433 positive cases from April 27th-May 3rd.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said rising case counts are linked to the BA.2 variant’s emergence.

“As is true nationally, all of the recent SARS-CoV-2 viruses sequenced in Alaska are omicron, with the vast majority being BA.2,” McLaughlin said.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) updates its COVID-19 data every Wednesday. There was also a small increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations from May 11th-17th, compared to the previous week, according to data released Wednesday. The weekly DHSS report showed a total of 44 COVID-positive Alaskans hospitalized during the last week. There were also 41 Alaskans hospitalized due to COVID the previous week.

“Alaska is experiencing a rise in COVID-19 hospital beds occupied, particularly in Anchorage, where the state’s largest reference hospitals are located,” McLaughlin said.

Through the end of March 2022, a total of 71,743 vaccine breakthrough cases were documented among Alaskans. An additional 8,178 cases occurred among Alaskans who were partially vaccinated. More than 72 percent of Alaskans aged 5 or older have received at least one dose.

“COVID-19 cases have become more common among fully-vaccinated people than they were in the initial months after vaccine roll-out,” McLaughlin said. “Vaccines continue to provide strong protection against hospitalization and death in Alaska during the omicron era, and most COVID hospitalizations in Alaska might have been prevented by vaccination.”

From March 2020 through March 2022, the mean age of COVID-19 hospitalized patients was 59. During that time frame, 55 percent of hospitalized residents were male, while 45 percent were female.

Alaska’s response and prevention strategies include case, hospitalization, and death tracking. The state also utilizes various communications resources, including its COVID-19 webpage, various dashboards, a quarterly epidemiology report, an online vaccine finder, and a testing site locator.

“DHSS continues to encourage appropriate mitigation in regions with high COVID activity,” McLaughlin said. “We are working closely with health care and key industry partners with congregate work settings in the fishing industry and cruise lines. DHSS is also conducting community-level outreach and assessments regarding vaccines, testing, and therapeutics to ensure equitable access to these services to all Alaskans.”