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COVID-19 cases remain high in the Y-K Delta as state hospital bed capacity hits 75%

Katie Basile
The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation COVID-19 drive-thru test site on April 10, 2020 in Bethel, Alaska.

From Jan. 10 to Jan. 16, the region saw 688 new COVID-19 cases, the highest weekly regional case count ever. The numbers from Jan. 17 to Jan. 23 were just shy of that, down by 30 cases according to the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC). It’s possible that actual numbers are higher; YKHC’s confirmed cases do not include at-home test results.

YKHC also reported one new hospitalization in-region, one medevac, and one death due to the virus during this one week period. The region’s case rate continues to outpace state and national infection rates.

The current omicron surge has resulted in a record breaking number of hospitalizations nationwide. In Alaska, 75% of all adult hospital beds are occupied. Fourteen percent of those beds are occupied by patients who’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 15,855 new COVID-19 cases across Alaska. During that time, the Y-K Delta made up 4.1% of the state’s new cases.

According to NPR, more than 80% of hospitals nationwide are under high or extreme stress due to COVID-19 patients, and unvaccinated individuals continue to make up the majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Jan. 21 found that individuals who are fully vaccinated and boosted with an mRNA vaccine are 90% less likely to be hospitalized from an omicron infection, and 82% less likely to seek urgent care due to omicron-related symptoms.

Across the region, YKHC reports that 17,544 individuals, or 65.4% of the eligible population, are fully vaccinated against the virus. To receive a vaccine in Bethel, visit the hospital weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., or call 543-6949. In villages, call your local clinic or 1-800-478-6599.

Over the past week, in alphabetical order by community, YKHC announced 13 cases in Akiachak, 11 in Akiak, 14 in Alakanuk, 14 in Aniak, two in Anvik, 26 in Atmautluak, 169 in Bethel, 17 in Chefornak, 27 in Chevak, one in Chuathbaluk, three in Eek, 19 in Emmonak, three in Holy Cross, 76 in Hooper Bay, 16 in Kalskag, 19 in Kasigluk, 10 in Kipnuk, 24 in Kongiganak, 14 in Kotlik, nine in Kwethluk, six in Kwigillingok, two in Lower Kalskag, three in Marshall, two in Mekoryuk, seven in Mountain Village, three in Napakiak, five in Napaskiak, one in Newtok, five in Nunapitchuk, 22 in Pilot Station, one in Quinhagak, 35 in Scammon Bay, 30 in St. Mary’s, 12 in Toksook Bay, one in Tuluksak, 18 in Tuntutuliak, two in Tununak, and 16 in unnamed Y-K Delta Villages.

The Y-K Delta case rate remains higher than both that of the state and the nation. Per 100,000 people over seven days, about 2,268.2 developed COVID-19 in-region. That’s compared to the national case rate of 1,511 cases per 100,000 people, and the state case rate of 2,175.2 cases per 100,000 people over the same period of time.

YKHC reports that 65.4% of the eligible population is completely vaccinated against COVID-19, a 0.3% increase from last week. This is 4% higher than the state population, as DHSS reports that 61.4% of all eligible Alaskans have completed a vaccine series. Nationwide, 67.4% of the population that is five or older is fully vaccinated.

Local health officials continue to urge wearing masks and getting vaccinated and boosted against the virus to protect your health, and also to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed by new cases. Anyone with questions about the virus is encouraged to visit the YKHC COVID-19 Dashboard or call the COVID-19 hotline at 543-6949.

Corrected: January 26, 2022 at 4:59 PM AKST
A previous version of this article stated that 6.4% of the region's eligible population is fully vaccinated against the virus. This is incorrect. The correct number is 65.4%.
Elyssa (she/her) is the Wellness Programming Producer and a second year Jesuit Volunteer/Americorps Member at KYUK. She loves dogs, listening to podcasts and playing ABBA to close out the Birthday Line.
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