17th Alaskan death linked to COVID-19 reported

Another Alaskan has died of COVID-19, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced in a press conference on Tuesday. That makes the 17th COVID-19-related death since the start of the pandemic in March, and the third death announced since Friday.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the person died in Alaska and was older and had underlying conditions. She expressed her condolences to the person’s family.

“We’re always thinking about the friends and family,” she said. “We’re thinking of them as well as the health care providers who cared for them.”

The number of COVID-19-positive people currently hospitalized is 16. Including hospitalized patients under investigation for COVID-19, the total is 25. The cumulative total of hospitalizations for the pandemic is 78.

At the press conference, Zink said the online Alaska coronavirus response hub will start including average patient stays and total patient days. The average hospitalization for a COVID-19 patient is 5.79 days, for a total of 452 days.

Zink also announced the latest case counts. For the reporting period of midnight to 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 6, in addition to the one new death there were 23 new positive cases of COVID-19, with 11 in Anchorage, two in Wasilla and one each in Cordova, Eagle River, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Kenai, Ketchikan and the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area. That brings the total number of Alaska cases to 1,184.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services also identified four new nonresident cases, with two in the Municipality of Anchorage working in an unknown industry, one from the Kenai Peninsula Borough working in the tourism industry, and one from an unknown location and industry. That brings the total nonresident cases to 241.

Of the 23 Alaska residents, nine are male and 10 are female. One is aged 10-19; four are aged 20-29; six are aged 30-39; one is aged 40-49; four are aged 50-59 and three are aged 60-69.

Recovered cases now total 560, with eight new recovered cases recorded yesterday. A total of 131,420 tests have been conducted. The average percentage of daily positive tests for the previous three days is 1.19%.

The coronavirus response hub will begin showing not just the residency of COVID-19 patients, but where the infection occurred, Zink said. In response to a question from the Homer News about if DHSS will provide information about where people got infected if they had visited a tourist community, Zink said that kind of information can be hard to determine. If a visitor’s infection occurred in Homer — that is, they tested in Homer — DHSS would note that occurrence.

As part of contact tracing, Public Health workers would try to figure out who an infected person contacted, Zink said.

“If we’re unable to identify those close contacts, and we believe there’s a bunch of contacts, we’ll work with that community,” she said.

Dunleavy and Zink reiterated the importance of how to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including frequent hand-washing, maintaining physical distance of 6 feet and wearing face coverings when indoors or where it’s difficult to maintain distancing.

“We recommend you get outdoors as much as possible,” Dunleavy said. “The science is telling us the virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors.”

In a Facebook live video, Zink also showed a chart of the COVID-19 risk index. The risk of getting the virus increases in enclosed spaces, with duration of interaction, in crowds, and in areas with forced exhalation such as coughing, sneezing, yelling and singing. When indoors, she encouraged people to open windows or meet people outside.

“The more you can be outside, the better off we’re all going to be,” Zink said. “When you’re thinking about places you’re going, things you can be doing, think about those four criteria.”

The total positive resident case count for the Kenai Peninsula is 166, with eight in Anchor Point, three in Fritz Creek, 42 in Homer, 19 in Kenai, five in Nikiski, three in the northern peninsula, 28 in the southern peninsula, 33 in Seward, 22 in Soldotna and four in Sterling. Two people have died with Kenai Peninsula residency, both from Anchor Point.

At South Peninsula Hospital, there have been 4,645 total tests, with 4,448 negative, 77 positive and 120 pending.

On the Kenai Peninsula, testing can be done at the following locations:

Ninilchik: The NTC Community Clinic in Ninilchik is providing testing for COVID-19. The NTC Community Clinic is the Indian Health Service provider for the Ninilchik Tribe. The clinic is providing testing with a rapid test machine to those with symptoms, travelers and asymptomatic people. There are currently no restrictions on who can get tested. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.

Southern Kenai Peninsula: Other southern Kenai Peninsula testing sites are at South Peninsula Hospital and at SVT Health and Wellness Clinics in Anchor Point, Homer and Seldovia. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228.

Central Kenai Peninsula: Testing is available on the Central Peninsula at Capstone Family Clinic, K-Beach Medical, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Central Peninsula Urgent Care, Peninsula Community Health Services, Urgent Care of Soldotna, the Kenai Public Health Center and Odyssey Family Practice.

Call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400 for information on testing criteria for each location.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

A chart produced by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services shows four risk factors in being infected by COVID-19. (Graph courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)

A chart produced by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services shows four risk factors in being infected by COVID-19. (Graph courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)