COVID infection numbers are slightly rising
By Peter Loewi
The Nome Census Area returned to the CDC’s “high” community transmission level last week after a small infection surge was detected in Nome and five surrounding villages.
As of press time on Tuesday, there are 19 active cases in the region: Twelve in Nome, three in Elim, two in Wales, one in Golovin and one in Unalakleet.
While statewide hospital capacity remains available, the case rates have been among the highest in the nation. Also last week, Alaska reached the unfortunate distinction of being the state with the highest per-capita rates of COVID-19 overall since the start of the pandemic.
Current hospitalizations in Alaska are the highest they have been since mid-February.
The City of Nome continues to provide masks and at-home tests free of charge. They can be picked up at the City Hall, the Nome Recreation Center and the Richard Foster Building at the Kegoayah Kozga Public Library.
The original batches of at-home tests distributed by the City list an expiration date of June, but in July, the Food and Drug Administration granted a three-month shelf-life extension to both the iHealth Antigen Rapid Tests and the AccessBio Antigen Home Tests. As the tests are under Emergency Use Authorization, the actual efficacy over time is still being studied. According to a FDA factsheet, “Once the test manufacturer has more stability testing results, such as 12 or 18 months, the test manufacturer can contact the FDA to request that the FDA authorize a longer shelf-life. When a longer shelf-life is authorized, the expiration dates will be extended and the test manufacturer may send a notice to customers to provide the new authorized expiration dates, so the customers know how long they can use the tests they already have.”
Of the 22 authorized at-home over-the-counter diagnostics tests listed on the FDA website, nine have had their original expiration dates extended by several months.
On Saturday, President Joe Biden again tested positive for COVID-19, in what is being called a “COVID rebound” case. In late May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert about people testing positive a second time shortly after receiving a course of Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid. Rebounds do not appear to lead to serious illness, and after mild symptoms the first time, the president is said to be asymptomatic.
As cases rose across the country, the FDA had debated allowing younger adults to get a second booster, as the immunity granted by the shots wane. However, as even the single booster provides robust protection against hospitalization and death, the plan for summer boosters has been delayed until the fall, by which point an Omicron-specific booster is expected to be available.
The week in numbers:
On Tuesday, July 26, Norton Sound Health Corporation identified 12 new cases of COVID-19 in the region. Seven cases were in Nome, two were in Elim. Brevig Mission, Shishmaref and Unalakleet each had one case.
This meant that the number of active cases in the region reached 42. Twenty-four of the active cases were in Nome, seven were in Unalakleet, five in Elim, three in Brevig Mission, two in Wales and one in Shishmaref.
On Wednesday, July 27, NSHC identified six new cases of COVID-19 in the region. Three of the new cases were in Nome. Brevig Mission, Shaktoolik and Shishmaref each had one.
The number of active cases across the region dropped to 37. There were 24 in Nome, five in Unalakleet, three in Brevig Mission, and one in each of Shaktoolik, Shishmaref and Wales.
On Thursday, July 28, NSHC identified eight new cases of COVID-19: Five in Unalakleet, two in Nome, and one in Brevig.
On Friday, July 29, NSHC identified three new cases: One in each of Golovin, Nome and Wales.
On Saturday, July 30, NSHC identified two new cases: One in each of Nome and Wales.
On Sunday, July 31, NSHC identified four new cases all in Nome.
The weekend releases brought the number of active cases in the region down to 16. There were nine active cases in Nome, four in Unalakleet, two in Wales, and one in Golovin.
On Monday, August 1, NSHC identified seven new cases. Four of them were in Nome and three were in Elim. There are 19 active cases in the region: 12 in Nome, three in Elim, two in Wales, one in Golovin, and one in Unalakleet.
Since the start of the pandemic the USA has had 91,485 officially reported cases of COVID-19 and 1,030,564 associated deaths.
Alaska has had at least 271,101 cases of COVID-19, 3,826 hospitalizations and 1,275 deaths. There are currently 83 people hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Nome, the Bering Strait and Norton Sound region has had at least 6,235 cases, 46 hospitalizations and six deaths.