New confirmed cases of COVID-19 have begun to slow in the past two weeks, and there is hope that the disease’s surge may have peaked. Confirmed cases reached 27,267,645 Sunday, up by 116,729 for the day. That is well short of the 200,000-plus cases added per day for over two months. COVID-19 deaths totaled 467,868. Yet, there is still worry that a slow distribution of vaccines and mutations of the disease from Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom could bring a new surge. Experts warn the number of coronavirus deaths in the United States may total 600,000 by the summer.
The standard figures given to the public to track the disease are confirmed cases, fatalities, hospitalizations and, more recently, vaccination rates. Another measure is cases and deaths per 100,000 people, which allows for apples-to-apples comparisons among states and counties with varying populations. A wrinkle on this method is used to identify hotspots. This yardstick is confirmed case increases per 100,000 people over the past seven-day average. The worst hotspot in America identified this way, which is a method used by The New York Times, is Aleutians East Borough, Alaska. The figure there is 741 per 100,000, which is much higher than the second-place location, Burleson, Texas, at 229.
Unlike most states, Alaska does not divide itself into counties. It calls its geographic sections “areas” or “boroughs.” Aleutians East Borough is located at the west end of the Alaska Peninsula, toward the Aleutian Islands. It covers 15,010 square miles, of which slightly less than 50% is on land, and the balance in the sea.
The Aleutians East Borough population is only 3,385. Of these, 46% are Native Americans, 20% are Asian and 13% are white. The median household income at $69,250 is very close to the national number. The 13.8% poverty level is slightly above the national number. The median value of owner-occupied housing is $119,900, less than half the national average.
Alaska in general is doing well. According to a 24/7 Wall St. analysis, Alaska is the state with the best vaccination rate. We wrote:
The rate at which people have been vaccinated varies considerably from state to state. In the state that has done the most poorly–Iowa–the percent of people who have received at least one dose is only 7.1% of the population
The state with by far the best record is Alaska where 14% of people have been given at least one dose. Oddly, 248,500 have been delivered and only 139,147 given, for a ratio of 56%, which is below the national average of 56%.
The worst hotspot in America soon will be in another county. That rotation from place to place has happened regularly since the disease hit the United States just over a year ago. For the time being, however, the people of Aleutians East Borough are suffering as much as in any other place in the country.