ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has urged residents to get vaccinated, amid a spike in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant.
“There is a safe, free and widely available tool to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror,” Dunleavy said in a statement Wednesday. “That tool is the vaccine.”
Alaska reported 338 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths on Wednesday, including a nonresident. The state health department did not say when the deaths happened.
There have been 385 state resident deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 53% of eligible Alaskans have been fully vaccinated, according to the state health department.
Dunleavy has previously urged Alaskans to get vaccinated. But the statement issued Wednesday was more urgent because the state’s spike has been tied to the highly contagious delta coronavirus variant, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Statewide, there were 100 people hospitalized with the virus on Wednesday, and 20 of those people were on ventilators.
Hospitalization numbers have been steady over the last week but are considered high for Alaska, a state with a limited health care infrastructure and hospitals that are already close to capacity during the summer.
Health officials said during the first seven months of this year, 94% of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and 97% of deaths were among unvaccinated Alaskans.
Dunleavy, who was infected with COVID-19 in February and was vaccinated in June, joined Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, in urging eligible Alaskans to get vaccinated.
“Alaskans, by working together since early 2020, defied the odds and protected our most vulnerable loved ones and neighbors,” Dunleavy said in the statement.“Because of Alaskans making good choices and looking out for each other, our state has weathered the effects of this virus better than almost anywhere in the country.”
Zink said vaccines are the best way to keep Alaskans out of hospitals or from losing their lives to COVID-19.
“Nothing is more effective in fighting this virus and getting us all back to normal than this game-changing tool,” she said.
The Associated Press