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Breakthrough Cases Growing

A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Radoslav Zilinsky
Getty Images
A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Omicron variant has proven very infectious.

Alaska’s Covid-19 infections have jumped dramatically in the past week, with over 10,000 new positive cases reported in Alaska on Wednesday. Homer’s positivity rate is 19 percent.

Alaska Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll says that break-through cases in those who’ve been vaccinated are increasing.

“Yeah, we're seeing a lot of breakthrough cases with Omicron and we think that it's more than Delta. And it seems to be certain in other countries and perhaps the lower 48. We don't have Alaska specific numbers yet and that's, those are really hard numbers to collect,” Carroll said.

And though hospitalizations are on the rise due to Omicron, the variant doesn’t seem to be as deadly as Delta or the other variants of concern. However, Carroll warns that doesn’t mean it can’t be dangerous.

“But I got to say that, you know, there's a lot of reasons why we should avoid infection with Omicron, but I'll just limit it to six quick reasons. Number one is if you get Omicron, there is a risk of severe disease, the number two, you might transmit Omicron to someone who's at high risk for bad outcomes. The third one is long covid. We don't know who might get signs and symptoms that carry on for months or years after infection. Fourthly, You know, that's overwhelming hospitals. Fifthly, You know, there is no guarantee that you won't get the infection again, the immunity that you get from being previously infected is finite, or it only lasts so long and then you're susceptible again,” Carrol said.

One of the main reasons however, is that there aren’t as many effective treatments for the Omicron variant.

“The treatments that we have that were effective against Delta, aren't all effective against Omicron and, and we don't know how that might look in the future. But one thing that we've seen with other variants like P1 and Alpha, is that we lost some of our meds that just didn't work on those variance, but we gained them back with Delta. So they were effective against Delta. So not quite, you know, there's no way of knowing what we'll see in regards to future variants,” Carrol said.

This week President Biden offered free covid tests to every household. One caller to the Covid Brief wondered about how the tests will handle being shipped to someplace cold like Alaska.

“This is something that Pharmacy and Healthcare and other sectors, you know, here in Alaska, you know, continue to work with, you know, getting products to people in such a way that they're still stable and useful when they arrive. And that's including vaccines and stuff like Narcan, and in terms of shipping to your home, It's a good idea to, you know, watch the tracking system to make sure that someone is home or you're ready to receive it when it arrives and then what we do, you know, is when they're shipped in large quantities like to Alaska or clinics or retailers, they're typically, the shipping is temperature controlled,” Carrol said.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Biden Administration’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers. SPH’s Derotha Ferraro said the hospital has resumed vaccinating staff, and that the unvaccinated employees have until Feb. 14 to begin their inoculations or apply for a waiver. She said there have been about a hundred employees and contractors who’ve received a medical or religious exemption so far, out of a workforce of over 570.

Jay Barrett, KBBI's new News Director should be a familiar voice to our listeners. He's been contributing to Kenai Peninsula news for the last three years out of KDLL Kenai, and was the voice of The Alaska Fisheries Report from KMXT for 12 years. Jay worked for KBBI about 20 years ago as the Central Peninsula Reporter at KDLL.