Alaska undergoes drastic increase in Covid
Alaska closed last year in a relatively reassuring coronavirus situation. On Dec. 29, 30 and 31, it ranked 46th in the nation for the number of cases reported (156,130 statewide; 63,352 in Anchorage), for new hospitalizations (52, out of a total of 3,251 since March 2020) and for deaths (954). It outnumbered only Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Guam and American Samoa in sick people. In other words, it started 2022 as the fifth least pandemic state in the country.
Experts are concerned that Omicron may collapse the healthcare system, already badly “burned out” after two years of intense fighting, and that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has halved the isolation time (from ten to five days) after a person has been exposed to the virus. The official Covid data changes constantly and quickly.
Omicron spreads in Alaska
By the end of December 2021, Alaska had recorded five cases of Omicron. This clearly means that Omicron has arrived and is poised to spread its contagions throughout the State. And it can do so at a swift speed. Its transmission force is far superior to that of the Delta variant which managed to reach the most remote parts of Alaska at the beginning of last October.
Omicron is the most explosive Covid variant because of the extreme ease with which it spreads, although in principle it is less deadly than the previous variant, Delta. But this does not mean that Omicron cannot be lethal, far from it. In fact, there have already been cases outside Alaska of people who have lost their lives after being infected with this new mutation. And U.S. medical authorities warn that “while most people suffer mild to moderate symptoms and recover without special treatments, some develop severe cases.”
The worst, at the end of January
There is also a risk of Omicron acting in combination with the more deadly Delta variant, which would aggravate the situation considerably. In fact, in the last two weeks of January, Alaska has seen a more than 151% increase in cases compared to the previous weeks in December.
Other scientists are confident that Omicron will activate antibodies to Delta. But according to the chief of the Epidemiology section at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Joe McLaughlin, it is to be feared that we will begin to see “an increase in Covid cases very soon as Omicron takes hold in our state.” And according to the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking to CNBC television, “it’s probably a couple of weeks before Covid cases peak, possibly in late January.”
School closures in Alaska is not being contemplated at this time. However, the Anchorage School District has extended the requirement that students wear masks due to the rapid increase in Omicron cases.
The measure reverses Superintendent Deena Bishop’s decision to make the wearing of masks optional within the Anchorage School District as of Jan. 3, when students returned to classes from winter break.
Deena Bishop had already anticipated that with the return to school the School Board would reassess the situation and, if infections increased, masks would again be required.