1 new COVID-19 case in Homer as hospital offers free testing on the Spit

Additional COVID-19 cases announced in Soldotna and in a nonresident visitor to the peninsula

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Alaska grew on Friday, so did the number of cases on the Kenai Peninsula, which jumped by seven on Thursday and by another two today.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced five new positive cases of the disease on Friday, May 29 — one in Homer, one in Soldotna, two in Anchorage and one in Juneau — bringing the state total to 430 cases. So far, 367 people have recovered, DHSS reports.

This brings the total number of cases identified in residents of Homer to seven, and the total number of cases on the southern Kenai Peninsula to at least 13. There have been two cases identified in Anchor Point and one in Fritz Creek. At least three of the five cases listed in the “other” category by DHSS for those living on the peninsula in communities with less than 1,000 people are residents of the southern peninsula.

The state also announced a new case of COVID-19 in a nonresident visitor to Alaska, located in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

“The person was detected as a positive case after they had completed their 14-day self-quarantine,” a press release from DHSS states.

Nonresident cases are not included in the main Alaska count. So far, there have been 18 nonresidents in Alaska who have contracted the disease, many of them seafood industry workers.

It was not immediately clear where the nonresident visitor was tested. Central Peninsula Hospital Public Information Officer Bruce Richards told the Peninsula Clarion that CPH did not perform the test for the new Soldotna case or for the new case of the nonresident on the peninsula. South Peninsula Hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro reported that SPH had two new positive test results on Friday. One of them corresponds to the new Homer case. Ferraro was not immediately able to confirm the residency of the hospital’s second positive case from Friday.

There are no patients currently being hospitalized for COVID-19 at South Peninsula Hospital, she wrote in an email. The two new cases identified at SPH were tested through the drive-up sample collection system earlier this week, Ferraro said.

Of the five new cases reported by DHSS on Friday, four are male and one is female. One is under the age of 10, one is between the ages of 10-19, two are aged 20-29, and one is aged 60-69, according to DHSS.

There have been 47 total cumulative hospitalizations of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19. This number includes people who have since recovered or who have since died. There are 14 people currently being hospitalized for either confirmed cases of COVID-19 or suspected cases as of Friday, according to data on the state’s coronavirus response hub.

Of the seven cases specifically in Homer, four are recovered while three are active cases. Of the five cases located elsewhere on the peninsula in the “other” category, one is a recovered case and four are still active.

A little further north, Central Peninsula Hospital reports that of the 1,070 total COVID-19 tests it has administered, 1,041 of those have come back negative, a total of 11 have come back positive and 18 are pending.

Locally, South Peninsula Hospital reports that of the 1,043 total tests given so far, 964 have come back negative and 67 are pending. There have been a total of 12 positive tests at SPH.

In an effort to expand testing to asymptomatic individuals, South Peninsula Hospital announced this week that starting today, Friday, it is offering free COVID-19 testing at the Boat House Pavilion on the Homer Spit. Testing is being offered daily through June 6, according to a press release from the hospital.

The testing being done on the Spit is with a rapid testing machine — results will be provided within the same day. No appointments are necessary and the testing station is open until 7 p.m.

People who use the Homer Spit testing station will be asked to provide their driver’s license or state identification card their email address, Social Security number and their phone number. They will also need to show their medical insurance card, if they are insured, according to the press release.

Results will be made available on the hospital’s online patient portal, or can be printed.

Additionally, the hospital is providing free testing for asymptomatic people if they are seasonal workers, summer residents or long-term visitors arriving from out of state, according to a separate press release from the Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center. Those who wish to take advantage of this testing need to call the hospital ahead of time at 907-235-0235 to get pre-registered.

People who use this free testing will be called when their test results come back.

For people showing symptoms of COVID-19, testing is available as usual through the drive-through at the hospital’s main entrance, 24/7. People utilizing this method of testing also need to call ahead at the same phone number.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.