Alaskans of different ethnic backgrounds are contracting COVID-19 at different rates

Updated Post

Alaskans of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized from the disease at different rates. 

Alaskans of Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander ethnicity make up 4% of the cases in the state, while they’re only 1% of the population. Alaska Natives also have more cases compared with their share of the population. 

At a news conference Tuesday, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the causes for the differences are likely complex. She said state health authorities are working to address the issue. 

“There’s a lot of reasons for this,” she said, adding that state health officials “continue to work with local communities to try to do everything we can to prevent these disease outbreaks, as well as hospitalizations and deaths.” 

The category of Alaskans with confirmed cases of COVID-19 who are hospitalized at the highest rate also are Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, at 20%. The hospitalization rates for other categories of Alaska cases are: 15% of Asians; 14% of Alaska Native and Native Americans; 11% of whites; 6% of Hispanics; and 4% of Blacks. 

Zink also addressed why it’s not possible for the public health response to the pandemic to focus just on those with higher risk from the disease, such as those with pre-existing conditions and older people. 

She noted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found nearly half of adults are at risk for having a severe illness if they contract the virus. 

“So, it’s just a lot of people. And that’s why it’s really important on all of us to do our part to minimize the spread of this disease. And it’s just incredibly contagious, before people even know that they have symptoms,” she said.

Zink said she’s hoping to share the hospitalization rates for different age groups next week. 

Original Post

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s latest COVID-19 press conference is scheduled for 5 p.m. today.

Dunleavy will discuss the distribution of CARES Act funds. Joining him will be AIDEA Executive Director Alan Weitzner and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink.

State health officials reported 50 new cases of COVID-19 by Monday, the majority of them Alaska residents.

Gov. Dunleavy’s administration has imposed several public health mandates that have reshaped daily life across Alaska to combat the spread of the virus. Those mandates and other Alaska-specific COVID-19 resources and information are available at coronavirus.alaska.gov.

You can watch today’s press conference live on this post, the governor’s Facebook or Livestream pages.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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