The virus is surging in Alaska’s inside, straining a Fairbanks hospital.

Dr. Angelique Ramirez, the chief medical officer of the main health system in Fairbanks, Alaska, began the monthly coronavirus briefing in April by saying that the March meeting would be the last. But amid a new spate of cases in the state, one of the worst waves in the country, Dr. Ramirez openly about her earlier assessment.

“I was wrong,” she said.

With nearly 100,000 residents, the Fairbanks metropolitan area is Alaska’s second largest and largest inland. According to a New York Times database, the number of new coronavirus cases that Fairbanks is based in is North Star is up 253 percent in the past two weeks. The positivity rate has doubled from 5 percent to about 10 percent since March, and hospitalizations at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, the region’s only hospital, have reached a record high.

“This place is on fire with Covid,” said Dr. Barb Creighton, an internist at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, at the meeting.

Experts aren’t sure what’s driving the surge, although low vaccination rates certainly play a role. Thirty-six percent of Alaskans are fully vaccinated, and in some counties that number is over 50 percent, but in the Fairbanks area only 29 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

“There isn’t a big outbreak or two big outbreaks that really drive this,” said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist for Alaska. “We have cases and clusters that are associated with a variety of different attitudes.”

With two-thirds of the elderly population in Fairbanks receiving at least one dose of vaccine, those recently hospitalized in Fairbanks are younger than Covid patients in the winter when the number of cases peaked. Dr. Creighton said that people who were hospitalized in April were typically in their forties and fifties and hadn’t been vaccinated while waiting to see what side effects of receiving a Covid-19 vaccine could have.

“We see that they are staying longer because they are not dying,” said Dr. Creighton. “We give them non-invasive ventilation and they stay two or three weeks and turn around, something I’ve never been so proud of.”

While these elderly patients were largely grateful for the care during the Winter Summit, hospital patients now feel differently.

“Some of these people are people who are anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and they don’t think they have Covid or are sick because of it, and our staff get pretty angry,” said Shelley Ebenal, executive director of The Health System, Foundation Health Partners said, pleading with the system’s trustees to share their appreciation for the hospital staff.

She warned bleakly: “We are not outside of Covid, and our employees in particular are not outside of Covid. Our morale is really low. “

Comments are closed.