Alex Appel/Kodiak Daily Mirror

Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.

There were 270 known active COVID cases in Kodiak as of Thursday, a 16% increase in the past week, according to numbers reported by the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center.

Based on population ratios, a total 1,499 people out of every 100,000 would have COVID, according to calculations done by Kodiak resident Aaren Ellsworth. She has been independently analyzing data about the number of COVID cases since the start of the pandemic.

Looked at another way: Out of every 100 people tested for COVID in Kodiak, 13% would be projected to have the virus, based on current case loads. At that rate, the number of active cases is likely higher than what is being reported, according to Ellsworth.

The Kodiak Emergency Services Council, which sets policy for all kinds of emergency responses, has not met since Sept. 9 and, as of Thursday, had not planned its next meeting, according to the Director of the Emergency Services Council Mike Tvenge. As the leader of the council, Tvenge is the person who calls meetings, and he said he only does so when policy is being considered.

The Emergency Services Council typically discusses early in the week whether there is a need to meet after the Emergency Operations Center has released its daily COVID reports, according to City Mayor Pat Branson, who is on the council. These discussions are not open to the public — only the debates about policy changes are broadcast, according to Tvenge. 

Tvenge said he is in frequent contact with the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce to get information about the number of customers in Kodiak stores at any one time. If businesses are seeing a lot of foot traffic, the council might then consider discussing a mandate that could limit indoor capacity, Tvenge said.

On Aug. 27, the Emergency Services Council instituted a mask mandate that required, with few exceptions, people to wear masks in indoor spaces. The council has since discussed loosening those restrictions so that businesses and building owners would not have to enforce the mandate. 

The mandate was meant to be a recommendation from the start, ESC spokeswoman Meagan Christiansen told the KDM in a previous interview. It was issued in order to give businesses the option to enforce their own masking policies by allowing them to fall back on a local mandate.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 2,191 known COVID infections, the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center reported. This translates to one in every six people on the island having been sick with COVID at some point, according to Ellsworth. 

As of Thursday, three people were hospitalized for symptoms associated with COVID, according to data from the Emergency Operations Center. In total, there have been 84 hospitalizations and seven deaths associated with COVID since the start of the pandemic, according to the EOC. In the past few days, one person has been discharged and another has been hospitalized. This has been typical of the last three weeks, according to Amy Corder, incident commander at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.

Consistently, Providence Kodiak has two to three people, on average, now hospitalized with COVID or COVID-like symptoms at any one time, when earlier this year there were only one to two people being hospitalized at any one time, according to Corder. More than 10% of the people going to the Providence Kodiak Emergency Room are seeking treatment for symptoms associated with COVID, according to Corder. 

“In my 10 years at the hospital, I’ve never seen this many people consistently,” Corder said.

For the past two to three weeks, the patient overflow has been getting increasingly worse, according to Corder. The hospital has started using rooms from outside the ER to treat the patients arriving there. 

Corder is only expecting things to get worse. Hospitalizations tend to follow confirmed COVID diagnoses by two weeks. Since the island is currently seeing a spike in cases, Corder is expecting an influx of patients later this month.

Not all of the people going to the Emergency Room are there because of COVID, but the pandemic is having a ripple effect. Since Anchorage hospitals are overflowing with COVID patients, Providence Kodiak is forced to treat patients that it would normally transfer, Corder said.

Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy started allowing the state to treat patients with Crisis Standards of Care. He arranged for 400 health care workers to come to the state on a temporary basis to assist health care providers. About 20 of those workers will be coming to Providence, according to Corder, with the first wave of them arriving today, she said.

Alaska currently has the highest rate of COVID infections in the nation. Statewide, the average number of cases has increased by 87% during the past seven days, according to The New York Times. The Times found that four out of the top 10 areas with the highest number of COVID cases per capita in the country are in Alaska. The top three municipalities on that list are Kodiak Island Borough, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Fairbanks North Star Borough. 

The New York Times relies on a combination of data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and national reports. These numbers vary from the reports from the Emergency Operations Center, and it is unclear which set is more accurate, according to Christiansen. 

For the past two weeks there has been an average of 32 new COVID cases a day on the Island Borough, the New York Times reports. Even though this seems like a small number when compared to other cities such as Fairbanks’ North Star Borough, which had diagnosed 214 new cases as of Thursday afternoon, Kodiak’s numbers are proportional to 243 new cases out of 100,000 people, according to the Times.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is experiencing a massive backlog of data that it needs to process, according to Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist in the Division of Public Health in the Department of Health and Social Services. The DHSS began to fall behind data reporting in June when there was a spike in cases across the state, she said.

DHSS has since changed its system so it is able to stay up to date with new information. There are still months of backdated information that it is sorting through so there will likely be a sharp spike in cases and deaths reported by the department in coming weeks, Castrodale said. She estimates that the real number of new COVID cases a day in the state is between 1,000 and 1,700.

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