Alaska ICU beds running low


The number of intensive care unit beds available in Alaska has dropped to just 38, with 125 Alaskans in hospitals now with either COVID-19 or a suspected case of the infectious coronavirus.

Alaska has 137 ICU beds, with 99 of them occupied with patients who have a variety of serious conditions.

But it’s not just about the beds. Staffing is equally a difficult issue right now as hospital workers are working under pressure. Every time a nurse or health care worker comes into contact with COVID-19, they must quarantine for two weeks, or 10 days if they have tested positive. Health care workers who are wearing surgical masks and goggles are not considered in “close contact.” But health workers are in short supply because of having to cycle out of the workforce.

Traveling nurses are hard for Alaska to attract. In some states, an ICU nurse can now earn $144 an hour, and Alaska is competing against those wages.

Alaska is not the only state feeling the pressure. In North Dakota and South Dakota, the cases are rising faster than anywhere in the country. North Dakota now has a mask mandate, has the highest per capita deaths and the highest per capita hospitalizations in the nation.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgam wrote, “the State Health Officer, with my full support, has issued an order requiring face coverings to be worn in all indoor businesses and public settings and outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible.” The order is in effect until Dec. 13.

The shortage of medical workers is so bad in North Dakota that announced that health care workers who are positive for COVID-19 but are showing no symptoms may continue to work in COVID-19 units.

Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota told the Argus Leader on Friday that she will not use state resources to enforce any federal COVID-19 orders that are expected to come from presumed President-elect Joe Biden.

Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska pleaded with Alaskans to take extra precautions as positive tests have risen dramatically and the medical system in Alaska is at risk of collapsing due to the workforce shortage.

Must Read Alaska has learned that patients from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region have recently been transported to Fairbanks instead of Anchorage, because of the bed-staff shortage at Alaska Native Medical Center.


  1. I am very close to a PACU and ICU nurse in Anchorage who was exposed to Covid because of a false negative test to a patient. The exposure was an issue because nurses are not issued N95 masks or face shields. Most nurses are wearing surgical masks, which in close contact is not enough. I am told by nurses, if they were using nN95 masks and face shield their exposure would be greatly reduced. Our nurses are in limited supply, and they are not being issued the proper PPE. We literally send them into harms way with out the proper gear.

    Please ask our Governor and Dr. Zink why after months of “Preparing” our limited nursing staff is not properly outfitted. To me this is inexcusable, all the rhetoric, all the “preparing”, and here we are. The nursing shortage is not new, it was an issue well before Covid. We are not protecting our nurses, and that is on Dunleavy and Zink.

    The Governor can issue all the emergency broadcasts he wants and implore us to be cautious, or he could get our nurses the proper gear to the job they are trained and committed to doing.

    • Why would the government provide PPE to private enterprise hospitals? It’s not the governments responsibility to resource a hospital, gas station or retail store. Sure the Governor can use emergency powers for all kinds of purposes, but he’s not the one to get nurses anything, at all, ever. Unless you are implying that the Governor seize control and ownership of the hospitals. Then it would ultimately his responsibility. Kind of like Cuba or Venezuela.

      • That is not what I am implying, in the least. But, for the last 8-9 months the Governor has had emergency powers, and, he said, one of the primary reasons he needed those was to help make sure supply chains are open so our medical system has what it needs. We are in short supply of nurses, and our nurses do not have what they need. I agree with you, in normal circumstances is not the government’s role to be involved….It seems even with these special powers the government is not capable. Perhaps it is time to drop these emergency orders, and let us deal with this on our own. It seems the only thing the government is good at doing is infringing on our God given rights….Your point is well taken.

      • Kind of like the US and Alaska. Why would the government subsidize oil and gas development. And they’ll do the same if they open up logging in SE. it’s why Trump doesn’t pay income tax. He’s subsidized by us.

  2. The PCR retest has an 80 percent false positive. That’s why you see rise in positive “cases “ without symptoms. So if you’re in contact with a “positive “ person then you have to quarantine. You’re taken out of the work force for 2 weeks making hospitals short staffed So… in flu season where people are getting sick with flu and pneumonia especially who have co morbidity of course they end up very sick !!!! What about preventing illness instead of running scared? Let’s shut down entire economy ruining our kid’s and grandkids futures. Makes so much sense! This reset and dark winter are going to come true if we buy this narrative people. Scare people enough pounding the positive case numbers in our faces and of course ignorant people will beg the government to save them. I’ll give up everything if you keep me safe. Yeah looks bad for our country the way things are going.

    • Every time a nurse or health care worker comes into contact with COVID-19, they must quarantine for two weeks, or 10 days if they have tested positive. Why? This has absolutely no scientific justification and is grossly irresponsible. This is a virus and this is the virus season. They are creating a crisis that doesn’t need to be. Nurses and doctors are being irresponsible if they haven’t educated themselves better on this virus by now.
      By the way, “cases” being reported are not sick patients, they are lab specimens showing a positive PCR test. Some people are tested over and over again. The PCR test is highly inaccurate and virtually worthless. The new rapid tests they’re using are even worse about giving false positives. There is no reason to get tested if you aren’t seriously ill when doctors may need to identify the organisms making you ill to target specific treatments.

    • According to the article above, North Dakota has a mask mandate *AND* “the highest per capita deaths and… hospitalizations in the nation.” That surely doesn’t appear to show a sound reason to impose the same mandate here.
      Anchorage has had a mask mandate for so long I’ve lost track, and we lead the state, by far, in new “cases.” In fact, each time they have ramped up the mandates, the numbers of cases have gone up within a week, and stayed up. Again, anything but convincing as to the effectiveness of mask mandates. Not to mention the dubious determination of “positive cases” and hospitalized “with” covid being used to whip up new fear.

      • The Governor just issued the mask mandate because of the massive outbreak. He’s a Republican who did a Dunleavy as long as he could. But finally couldn’t pass the red-face test in light of the outrageous number of cases and people dying. The armchair infectious disease specialists on this blog is pathetic. Listen to the experts, don’t do your own research and limit it to right-wing reactionary sites. This virus isn’t political.

        • The Governor should also ban tobacco, alcohol, vaping, and driving as well.

          An average of six people a day die from cancer, heart disease, and unintentional injuries. What product is well known to cause cancer and heart disease??? Hmmmm….. I don’t know, tobacco maybe? Oh… and guess what product has some 10-20 times the number of carcinogens? That’s right, the other essential business in AK, marijuana.

          The top three leading causes of death in AK take over 2,100 lives a year, but everyone turns a blind eye to it. But, a virus that has killed less than 100 people over the course of nine months! ZOMG!!!!!! Shut down all businesses!

  3. Why wouldn’t one test staff with the 15 minute rapid test to see if they are positive with Covid-19?

    10-14 day Quarantine? That makes no sense.

  4. It’s time agian to start hiring individuals as a nurses and cnas without prior college training only for training employees on the job training like the old days before all the regulations and certifications. 2-year Apprenticeships carefully watched umder a professional should become the norm for Alaskan employment. The State of Alaska has an apprenticeship that employers can use under the department of labor and workforce. But, I think it’s not used as it should be used by Alaskan employers.

  5. Elon Musk had 4 tests in one day. 2 came out positive, 2 came out negative. I guess the tests really are random.

  6. How many ICU beds are normally occupied? How many of the occupied ICU beds are for people with actual COVID Illness and not other injuries/diseases and an positive test? Less Fear Mongering and More Actual Facts PLEASE!

      • Resources are always limited in Capitalism.
        ICU beds are not the only commodity in limited supply.
        The reality is that a little over 100 ppl out of a population of 700,000 is a very small percentage of hospitalized individuals.

        • Steve,

          Good point, a little over 100 people in the ICU out of a population of 700,000 is a small percentage. What do you suppose our already limited ICU bed count will look like after a few weeks of 500+ cases per day, or 1,000 cases per day? Do you expect ICU bed capacity to drop or go up?
          What happens to those who get in a car accident or a work place accident or any of the other daily things that occur that requires the use of an ICU bed. That’s the point Steve, we are extremely close to running out of ICU beds. Some places, like the Mat-Su, haven’t had an open ICU bed for days and days.
          Be careful out there buddy, drive slower and leave more distance between you and the cars around you, don’t climb too far up a ladder, use extra caution with the chainsaw.

          • What is the statistically meaningful ratio between “cases” and hospitalizations?

            There isn’t one. And, no, simply calculating an average is not epidemiological useful as risk of serious symptoms, thus public health resource use, is nowhere near evenly distributed.

            Setting aside that “cases” as we count them is a nonsense metric due to known false positives, and we are running tests using 40 recycles instead of the recommended 32 (which captures “cases” with a never infectious viral load), cases among people under 40 without comorbidities are noise, they result, statistically, in no necessary use of public health resources.

            We should be concentrating on protecting the actually vulnerable, with their known, necessary caregivers exercising extreme caution. The rest of us should more or less live our lives with basic prophylactic measures as our “cases” don’t mean anything other than growing numbers of immunity.

          • Matthew,

            More cases lead to more hospitalizations, that’s the statistically meaningful relation and not hard to figure out. Let’s say that for the sake of argument it isn’t true, even though it very clearly is, somehow our ICU beds are are still filling up. We are a matter of weeks if not days of not having any available ICU beds in state…we are currently without ICU beds in certain parts of the state, like the Mat-Su.
            While you are going on about cases and statistical ratios, in the real world we are running out of ICU beds due in large part to covid…which is actually a thing and is actually happening.

        • So you have this idea that if you just remove capitalism then resources are suddenly not limited? Please explain.

        • Steve, so “resources are always limited in capitalism.” So they are, but opposed to what?

          Are you trying to imply another system would have unlimited resources? Any system has limited resources.

          Important to keep an eye on those systems with the ability to restrict resources.

      • Of course it does. If covid is not the reason for the increase in ICU use, and it is apparently not, perhaps we should stop obsessing about this virus and focus on what actually IS causing those beds to be full, as well as increasing the number of beds.

      • This is the point the nurses in my life are telling me. The system is always at capacity, or nearly so, when circumstances stress the system, such as Covid, we have a problem. This is why I am critical of the Governor and Dr. Zink, 9 months now. We were told they were preparing of a fall surge. Why are we not better prepared? Why does our limited nursing work force not have the proper PPE?

      • Gee, steve-o, you keep repeating this “If you need one and one isn’t available does it matter?” as if it actually means something.

        Here’s the point that re: COVID patient versus non-COVID.

        Hospital and ICU bed usage is being used as a metric to stir fear of the virus. There are currently what? Some 100 people in the hospital that tested positive for the virus. Yet, how it is presented is the virus itself put those people into the hospital. I have a friend that went in for a scheduled C-section and tested positive on admission. So, BOOM! The hospital is listing her as a COVID patient, even though she had no symptoms, and was there for a totally unrelated reason.

        So, the reason why it is important to distinguish the patients that went into the hospital BECAUSE of the virus from the people who are in the hospital for other reasons. Doing so allows the public to properly assess their own personal tolerance for risk of the virus.

        It is not a matter of “if you need one.” That is a red herring that adds nothing to the situation. In fact, it detracts from any positive points you make.

  7. 700+ cases reported today. Regardless of political persuasion, please mask up, suck it up, and social distance. I’m 75 and healthy – I truly hope we all stay that way. I’ll do my part. God bless.

    • You keep blocking your own respiratory waste hatch and you won’t be well for long. You risk getting pleurisy, for starters. Do you also drive your car around with an intentionally clogged tailpipe?

    • 700+ positive test for the COVID virus, but how many people are sick?

      There is a vast difference between testing positive, and actually being sick. If the RT-PCR test is used, all that means is you have some protein strings indicative of the COVID-19 RNA in your system. That test, which is used for the majority of tests in the State of Alaska is sensitive enough to detect RNA strands of the virus after your immune system already destroyed it. (And, there is some very good evidence that it is showing positive results for other more common coronaviruses.)

      And, I do hope you do your part. At 75 you are smack dab in the high risk group. You should mask up, stay home, avoid others, etc…. On the other hand, those in low risk groups should go about their business.

    • “Reported” is the key word. But if I want to see a true trend I would want a more granular look. Not a perfect analogy, but let’s say I worked as a barrista. I had 25 customers on Monday, 30 on Tuesday, 22 on Wednesday, 40 on Thursday, and 38 on Friday. If I “report” my week’s customers on Monday, it will look like I had a serious spike of 165 customers. Not that this is a poor way to report, but it doesn’t show any appropriate trend. Furthermore, the recent report of 13 deaths last Tuesday, “the highest one day report”, included deaths that occurred weeks ago. But they reported on the same day. The deaths need to record on the date of death and report it that day. Yes, there will be a lag unless hospitals have to report the date of death to the DHSS on the date of death. The data needs to be better to do better.

  8. So now we are having a Come to Jesus moment, where has your blog and readership been for the last 10 months.
    Insane conspiricy theories,bogus claims starting at the TOP of the Executive branch, and just outright lack of care for your neighbor.Not the Alaska that I knew first hand when I came here as a kid in the late ’70’s.
    Its ALWAYS been a numbers game, our facility capacity was always limited BEFORE the “beer virus”.
    Welcome to the world of exponential math

  9. There’s a good article in USA Today about the latest outbreak in North and South Dakota, Utah and Texas. Rural hospitals are overwhelmed. Instead of making lots of money off this catastrophe they’re going out of business. It’s terrible for everyone. Medical personnel are dying. Many at rural hospitals aren’t trained for this. Republican governors are imposing mandates because they can no longer remain partisan in the face of such a catastrophe. So it’s time to put aside your partisanship and like so many have said, wear a mask and be a good citizen. Listen to scientists. We all have our own opinions but we’re not infectious disease specialists and shouldn’t be making fun or disparaging those who are trying to save lives.

    • USA Today is not an unbiased source for news, but even they had to report that South Dakota’s death rate is below the national average.
      USA Today claimed that New York’s Andrew Cuomo’s “handling of the pandemic has been mostly praised” (without mentioning the fact many do NOT praise him since he issued virtual death sentences for thousands of elders in nursing homes). At the same time they had to report that New York’s total covid death rate is still higher than South Dakota’s.
      Defending personal freedom is not (or should not be) partisan. Gov. Noem is right in her approach to “provide her citizens with the full scope of the science and trust them to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved ones.”
      In spite of what USA Today and so many other mainstream media outlets might say, there is no science behind masks to prevent viral respiratory disease. I spent the majority of seven years of my doctoral studies working in a molecular genetics lab (where we did NOT EVER wear masks!), and I can tell you, not only will they not protect you or anyone around you, they have their own distinct health risks. When wearing a cloth or surgical mask, you are basically walking around with a petri dish on your face. They do not trap many viral particles, but they are excellent at trapping – and culturing – bacteria and fungi. As for those few viral particles in large droplets they DO trap, well, you are collecting, re-breathing and touching those yourself when you touch your mask. And they definitely do increase CO2 and decrease O2, in your airways and your bloodstream. I have done the tests myself with CO2 and O2 meters.
      Many doctors are raising the alarm that masks give people a false sense of security. What really needs to be done is to protect the vulnerable – we know who they are – and get the proper lifesaving treatments where needed. There are several hugely effective protocols (see America’s Frontline Doctors) that have saved thousands of lives where they have not been restricted by those who have a lot to gain by making sure this “pandemic” keeps rolling along.
      Being a good citizen doesn’t mean just doing what you’re told. Americans are capable of thinking for themselves and even though there’s been a concerted effort to block the truth, it’s out there for those wishing to find it. It’s just not as simple and convenient as reading what’s pushed in front of your face. LifeSiteNews is an excellent source for lots of information, meticulously researched, that you cannot find anywhere else. Try this

      or this

      or this

      • Please share your name and the university/degree you hold. And please read the cover story in today’s ADN – the newspaper which endorsed your candidates. The infectious disease doctor speaks from her experience and from her heart. We need to listen to her, not some conspiracy minded or partisan people who refuse to listen to science. Your explanation of masks makes no sense. But I don’t expect it to after reading “The Con He Rode In On,” by Mark Danner. It perfectly explains why you and most other readers of this blog view Trump as wearing golden finery when he’s buck naked. It’s not a pretty sight.

        • “Please share your name and the university/degree you hold.”

          Why? Does someone have to pass your test for qualifications to make a point?

          What you are doing is a logical fallacy. Arguing from expertise. Someone does not have to be a medical doctor to examine the statistics and say they look bogus.

    • That USA Today story was not credible, and they knew the public would not fact check. Hospitals are not overrun. Patients testing positive for covid are not necessarily sick with or in the hospital for covid. In fact, the medical literature and honest hospitalists report that actual covid patients are less sick and have shorter hospital stays even than last spring.

      Moore County in Texas in the article, for example, has one of the lowest rates of Covid positive test specimens of all Texas counties, according to the Texas Dept of Health. Moore County falls in the Texas Trauma Service Area A, which currently has 219 empty beds and 8 ICU beds. Any patient would go to one of those close by hospitals and they are well equipped to care for them. The news story claims they would search for beds in cities that are so far away from that county, like Midland, perhaps they don’t have a Texas map. No patient has died waiting for a bed. This is nothing but scaremongering.

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