As Delta Rages, Alaska Starts Critical Care Standards

With hospitals already overwhelmed, state begins prioritizing patients who will benefit the most
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2021 6:37 AM CDT
Updated Sep 23, 2021 6:58 AM CDT
Alaska at Its 'Worst Place in the Pandemic'
In this March 12, 2020 file photo, Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska's chief medical officer, addresses reporters at a news conference in Anchorage.   (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Alaska, now recording the highest COVID-19 case rate per capita of any US state, is activating crisis standards of care with short-staffed hospitals overwhelmed. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Wednesday announced an addendum to the state's existing COVID-19 public health order that grants limited liability protections to healthcare providers "acting in good faith in a time of limited resources," meaning "the usual, expected level of care may be modified."

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy also announced the state would receive 297 registered nurses, 114 certified nursing assistants or patient care technicians, 17 surgical technicians, 15 respiratory therapists, and other health care workers through an $87 million contract with the federal General Services Administration, per the Anchorage Daily News. The announcements came as the state reported 1,251 new COVID-19 cases, its highest single-day total since the pandemic began, per the Daily News. Dunleavy told residents to "be very careful" over the next month.

Some livestream viewers responded by claiming "fake numbers," "lies," and "propaganda," even as Dr. Anne Zink, the state's chief medical officer, warned Alaska is "at the worst place in the pandemic" and the delta variant is "crippling our healthcare system," per Reuters. The state's largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, adopted crisis standards of care on Sept. 11 before announcing at least one patient had died as a result of doctors rationing treatment. Another patient died waiting for a bed at a rural hospital, per the Daily News. (More Alaska stories.)

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