Anchorage hospitals have roughly half of Alaska’s 120 intensive care unit beds, making the city the nerve center of the state’s health care infrastructure. Right now, that infrastructure is stretched nearly to its limit.
Five Alaska doctors recently weighed in on tiptoeing back to normalcy after being fully vaccinated.
It’s unlikely the state will be able to keep the new COVID-19 strain from getting to Alaska and taking hold here, said Dr. Tom Hennessy, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s College of Health.
Vials have been airlifted to villages chartered planes. Others were driven through choppy seas on a water taxi. And some of the clinicians giving shots in rural Alaska were even shuttled around villages on sleds, pulled behind snowmachines.
Municipal and health care leaders are pushing Alaska GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy to take a new approach to contain Alaska’s COVID-19 outbreak, as case counts rise, schools remain closed, businesses clash with customers over face coverings and hospitals warn that they’re stretched thin.
By Tuesday, the state was reporting more than 7,500 known active coronavirus cases, and nearly every region in Alaska was in a “high-alert level,” meaning there’s widespread community transmission “with many undetected cases and frequent discrete outbreaks.”
Local doctors attribute the low death rate to a number of factors, from aggressive restrictions early on to widespread testing to the state’s geography.
Inspired by The Washington Post, reporters Tegan Hanlon and Nat Herz recruited a panel of six local health experts to answer those questions, and to explain how they manage COVID-19 risks in their everyday lives.