Alaska on Sunday reported 239 new COVID-19 infections, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
No new deaths were reported Sunday.
The new infections follow a trend of decreased cases during the last several weeks. Health officials have expressed cautious optimism about the downward trend, although they are concerned that holiday travel and gatherings may lead to another increase in case numbers.
Alaska experienced a record-high number of cases and COVID-19 related deaths in November and early December. The number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 also swelled, spurring Anchorage to move into a monthlong modified hunker down phase during December, after which fewer infections were reported. Restaurants and bars faced the biggest restrictions during the hunker-down phase because indoor dining service was banned. The businesses were allowed to reopen for dine-in starting Jan. 1, though with capacity restrictions.
By Sunday, virus-related hospitalizations had steadied and hospitals statewide were at less than 75% capacity.
Seventy-four people with COVID-19 were in the hospital Sunday and another 13 people in the hospital were suspected to have the virus, the health department said.
In total, 214 Alaskans and one nonresident with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state in March. Alaska’s overall death rate per capita is among the lowest in the country, but officials say the state’s vast geography and vulnerable health care system make it difficult to compare with other states.
Initial doses of the vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December and hospital workers, emergency personnel and residents and staff at long-term care facilities were the first groups of people to be vaccinated. Alaskans who are 65 and older are next to receive the vaccines, although the vaccinations will likely begin toward the end of the month.
Of the 232 new infections reported Sunday in Alaska residents, there were 39 in Anchorage, one in Chugiak and six in Eagle River; one was in Seward; two were in Kodiak; one was in Cordova; eight were in Fairbanks and one in North Pole; one was in Big Lake, five in Palmer, one in Sutton-Alpine and 27 in Wasilla; four were in Utquagivk; one was in Sitka; and 26 were in Bethel.
Among communities smaller than 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there were two in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; one was in the Nome Census Area; one was in the North Slope Borough; 84 were in the Bethel Census Area; and 20 were in the Kusilvak Census Area.
Seven nonresidents were reported to have the virus by Sunday, including one in Anchorage, four in Unalaska and one person with the location under investigation.
While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only one person.
It is not clear how many of the people who tested positive for the virus were showing symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about a third of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.
The statewide test positivity rate as of Sunday was 5.14% over a seven-day average. Health officials say anything above 5% can indicate inadequate testing and widespread community transmission. The state peaked at over 9% positivity in November.