The Kodiak Island Borough may have seen a spike in the number of positive COVID-19 cases last week, according to the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center.

EOC spokesperson Meagan Christiansen said the unofficial number was 15 new cases. However, the center is still waiting on information related to transmission and “whether it was a group or if it was community spread.”

Christiansen said the EOC is still awaiting information from public health officials in Fairbanks who conduct contact tracing.

“Their practice is to follow up with those who tested positive and ask some questions about who they were in contact with,” she said.

The Kodiak EOC normally posts its updates every Friday, but did not do so recently for the July 9-15 period, citing that data was not available. The COVID-19 report includes counts that run from Friday through Thursday.

However, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 15 probable and certified cases in Kodiak last week. One case was reported on July 11, three each on Wednesday and Thursday, five cases on Friday and three cases on Saturday.

Christiansen said people who have concerns about contracting the virus should take the appropriate precautions.

“We’ve been working on the pandemic for over a year, and by now people should know what to do,” she said.

“People who test positive should quarantine and notify their close contacts, who should also quarantine for at least a week. People should be washing their hands regularly, distance themselves from people they don’t know and wear a mask if they possibly think they’ve been exposed.”

Some regions in Alaska have seen a sharp spike in the number of cases, according to a Friday report from DHSS. The state reported 284 new cases statewide on July 14 and 15, including 20 nonresidents. Four resident and two nonresident positive cases were in Kodiak; the two nonresident cases were connected to the seafood industry. 

The majority of the spike was reported in Anchorage, with 115 people testing positive, and Sitka, which reported 38 positive cases. Sitka reported 60 new cases overall last week, moving local elected leaders to require face masks to be worn in city buildings. 

A small portion of the recent positive cases involve breakthrough cases, or people who contracted COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated, according to a DHSS summary.

The summary also noted that while no vaccine is 100% effective, it remains the best defense against the virus. From February through June, 656 Alaska COVID-19 cases were identified as breakthrough cases; 17 were hospitalized and two died.

Some of the breakthrough cases involve variants of the Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The state tested some of the breakthrough cases for variants. Of those variants, 54 were the alpha strain, and 15 were the delta variant. State health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider the delta variant the most transmissional version, though vaccines are highly effective against it.

State epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin told reporters in a Thursday briefing that he suspects the delta variant may be part of the cause behind the recent spike.

“We really want to do whatever we can to underscore the importance of vaccination, especially as we start to see the delta variant taking a foothold in Alaska,” McLaughlin said.

He added that the COVID-19 vaccine remains the foremost tool in combating and curtailing COVID-19.

Alaska’s rate of fully vaccinated people ages 12 and up — those who received two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single shot from Johnson and Johnson — remains at 51%, while those who received at least one shot was slightly higher at 56%.

Kodiak’s vaccination rate hovers around 61%, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

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