Dr. Anne Zink

Dr. Anne Zink

MAT-SU — Though the Alaska state laboratory processed over 20,000 tests for COVID-19 last week, the Mat-Su Borough shattered it’s previous record for cases in a day partially due to a lag in data entry due to the large volume of positive cases.

There were 735 new cases among Alaska residents reported statewide on Friday and 367 new cases were reported from the Mat-Su Valley, shattering the previous record of 85 on Nov. 3. Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink and other staff from the Department of Health and Social Services hosted a Zoom call on Friday to address the backlog of cases being entered onto the COVID-19 dashboard and the unreported cases from a Utah company.

“The surge in cases was just too much to keep up with data entry,” said Megan Tomkins, a Public Health Informaticist in Epidemiology. “There are about eight to 900 positives not reported reflected in the database due to reporting lag.”

Coleman Cutchins reported that Utah based Beach Tree Labs had four testing sites in Alaska, two of which were in the Mat-Su that had informed both the provider and the patient with testing information but failed to alert the state.

“We became aware that there was some missing data from a lab and wanted to get that information put upon the dashboard and so we’re still churning through those results,” said Louisa Castrodale. “It’s absolutely a resource situation. We are trying to recruit more folks for data entry.”

To date, there have been 27,554 COVID-19 cases among Alaska residents. The 1,222 nonresident cases reported in Alaska bring the cumulative total up to 30,776. There are currently 145 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 12 more awaiting test results, accounting for 16.6% of all hospitalized patients across Alaska. Dr. Zink stressed that the goal is to provide timely, accurate and transparent data and encouraged dashboard users to view the onset date rather than the report date for a more accurate representation.

“This disease clearly expands exponentially. It’s really hard to expand staff exponentially,’ said Zink. “The team that’s on here I can’ tell you that the amount of hours and work that they put in to make sure that our goal of timely accurate transparent data is there and our goal is to prevent people getting sick.”

Zink also encouraged community leaders and those viewing the dashboard to examine trends of data rather than specific number totals. Castrodale discussed why active cases are no longer featured on the dashboard.

“Concerning those active cases, we had become increasingly concerned that the reflection of who was active in the community was perhaps being misperceived,” said Tomkins. ”The surge in cases was just too much to keep up with data entry.”

State Director of Public Health Heidi Hedberg noted that DHSS has posted a new job as a covid technician and health associate to help with providing data on testing. Castrodale noted that the epidemiological curve data has been changed to show the date when specimen were collected and said that the lag in data entry was due to a lack of resources.

In the Mat-Su, 3,071 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 29 total nonresidents including two more reported on Friday bringing the cumulative total to 3,100 people who have tested positive in the Mat-Su. With the additional 367 cases reported Friday, the Mat-Su has an average of 60 cases per day over the last 14 days and 40 total hospitalizations. There are 21 people currently hospitalized which is a new record reached on Thursday. Of those hospitalized at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, 27.6 percent are hospitalized with COVID-19. There have been six Mat-Su residents who have died due to COVID-19, five of them from Wasilla and one from Palmer. Dr. Zink applauded the Mat-Su Borough School District in responding to a backlog in contact tracing from positive cases in the school communities. The nursing staff from each school in the MSBSD have been trained as contact tracers to help assist the state.

“We’ve actually had a series of meetings this week just in the Mat-Su School District region as we continue to move through efficiencies,” said Zink. “I would say that the school nurses are a hugely positive asset.”

Big Lake has had 67 total cases with three new. Houston has had 23 total cases with four new. Meadow Lakes has had six total cases with one new. Willow has had 61 total cases with one new. Palmer has had 811 total cases with 80 new and Wasilla has had 2,052 total cases with 278 new cases reported on Friday.

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