As the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to widen its foothold in the State of Alaska, Seward is no exception to the increase in reported positive coronavirus tests. After the city enjoyed a virtually coronavirus free June, local cases began appearing at the beginning of this month, with a continual rise in case numbers since. The current active case count stands at 52 as of Friday, 25 of which were added Thursday and Friday, bringing the new total active cases to within four of the city’s all-time high of 56 last November.

Amid much speculation over whether events such as the July 4th festival or Mt. Marathon race contributed to the increase, officials are recommending a return to the proven practices that previously enabled the city to control the virus.

“We would recommend, indoors, right now, mask up wherever you go, and social distance, and then if you have symptoms, stay home,” said Seward Community Health Center (SCHC) Executive Director Craig Ambrosiani. “Even if you’re vaccinated, you can still get and spread the virus.”

Across the US, data is showing that though there have been ‘breakthrough’ positive cases among the fully vaccinated, they only represent about four percent of all new reported cases since March, when the delta strain first began to spread through the US. Yet while vaccination may not offer complete immunity to the new variant, it has been statistically shown to provide significant protection and to mitigate the severity of the diease in those who still manage to contract it after full vaccination.

“The majority of cases are non-vaccinated, and vaccinated people that have gotten it have mild symptoms,” Ambrosiani said. “Non-vaccinated people that are getting it have more significant symptoms than the previous round of COVID.”

According to SCHC data, 45 percent of Seward residents are currently vaccinated, and supplies for all three vaccines remain plentiful at the healthcare facility, with waiting lists and supply rationing largely a thing of the past.

“We’ll give one shot out of a vial now,” Ambrosiani said. “Before we wouldn’t open a vial until we had ten people lined up, but now they’re saying don’t waste an arm. We’re fitting people in as we can. As we can get them in, we’ll give them the vaccine.”

Ultimately, he added, whether to get vaccinated is a personal choice for every individual, but the numbers continue to favor outcomes for vaccinated patients over non-vaccinated.

“Everybody’s different, and I think they’re entitled to handle it the way think is best for their body, but with that said, I think everybody is responsible for not spreading it,” Ambrosiani said, “and that’s social distancing, masking. If you have symptoms, stay out of circulation. And if you do have symptoms, you should get tested so folks know what’s going on.” 

SCHC is offering testing on Tuesday and Thursday from 12-1 p.m. Free vaccinations are also available for Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson options by appointment. Call 907-224-2273.