ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska broke several daily records for COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths on Friday, but public health officials said the high numbers were caused at least in part by data backlogs.
Data entry backlogs meant the roughly 1,800 new cases reported Friday were inflated by several hundred older cases, health officials said.
“That does not diminish the fact that we continue to see tremendous COVID spread in our communities,” Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said in a call with news media.
The 41 Alaska resident deaths from COVID-19 reported Friday occurred primarily last month, officials said. A few took place even earlier this year and hadn’t yet been included in the tally because of a cyber attack that hobbled the state’s death certificate record keeping system.
But, a record 217 hospitalizations reported Friday were not part of the data backlog and represented the growing number of people sick enough with COVID-19 to need hospital care in Alaska.
Over the last month, the state has recorded its “highest incidence of cases we’ve ever experienced, straining our public health infrastructure, our hospitals, our businesses and our economy,” Zink said.
The majority of the 44 deaths reported Friday — which included 41 residents and three nonresidents — were fatalities that occurred in August and were identified through a standard review of death certificates, officials said Friday.
Government agencies rely on death certificates to report COVID-19 deaths. If a physician judges that a COVID-19 infection contributed to a person’s death, it is included on the death certificate and ultimately counted in the state’s official toll, according to DHSS.
Some deaths are less clear-cut than others, and take longer to verify, which can account for periodic delays.
About a dozen of the deaths reported Friday occurred in the spring; for these, reporting was delayed by a May cyberattack that targeted the state health department, leaving many of its systems offline for months, officials said.