500 additional vaccine doses will come to Homer

State reports 180 new cases, 1 new death on Wednesday

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 180 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday — 10 of those being in nonresidents.

The state also reported one additional death of an Alaska resident tied to COVID-19. So far, a total of 259 Alaska resident deaths have been related to COVID-19. Alaska still has one of the lowest death rates in the country, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to the deaths of Alaska residents, the deaths of two nonresidents inside Alaska have been tied to the illness.

Alaska is set to receive 59,600 doses of vaccine in February. Out of that allotment, 18,500 doses are for the Indian Health Service. Homer is slated to get 500 additional doses in February.

According to state data, there have now been a total of 53,670 COVID-19 cases in the state, 1,719 of which have been among nonresidents.

There have been a cumulative total of 1,176 hospitalizations of Alaska residents, as well as 24 hospitalizations on nonresidents in the state. As of Wednesday, there were 43 people actively being hospitalized for COVID-19, and none being hospitalized with suspected cases. Out of all people currently hospitalized in Alaska, 5.4% of them are hospitalized for COVID-19.

New cases of COVID-19 are reported out each day by the state, and represent the number of cases that got reported to the state the day before.

Of the new cases reported Wednesday, only four were on the Kenai Peninsula, and none were in Homer or the southern peninsula region.

There were 53 new cases in Anchorage, 22 in Wasilla, 19 in Bethel, 13 in Eagle River, 11 each in Palmer and the Bethel Census Area, six each in Unalaska and the Kusilvak Census Area, four in Seward, two each in Chugiak, Fairbanks, North Pole, the North Slope Borough, Utqiagvik, Juneau, Ketchikan and the Aleutians East Borough, and one each in Kodiak, the Copper River region, Valdez, Delta Junction, Tok, the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Big Lake, Nome and the Dillingham Census Area.

The state reported 10 new nonresident cases on Wednesday, with three in Anchorage, five in Unalaska and two unknown.

Locally, South Peninsula Hospital has performed a total of 17,178 COVID-19 tests, with 16,587 of those coming back negative and 108 still pending, according to hospital data last updated on Monday. As of Jan. 25, the hospital had identified a total of 483 positive tests.

SVT Health & Wellness has conducted 982 tests, with 950 of those coming back negative and zero tests pending. According to data updated on Jan. 25, the clinic had identified eight positive COVID-19 cases in Seldovia and 24 in other communities on the southern peninsula. NTC Community Clinic in Ninilchik has done 4,270 COVID-19 tests, with 252 of those coming back positive, according to data updated on Jan. 22.

Transmission of the virus in Alaska continues to slowly decrease, according to a weekly case update from DHSS. Case rates. in Western Alaska do remain high, the report states. The state reported a 24% decrease in new cases the week of Jan. 17-23 compared to the week before, according to DHSS. There were 10 new hospitalizations over the last week.

Who can get vaccinated?

Those eligible to receive the vaccine in Alaska right now are residents age 65 or older, health care workers, and long-term care residents and staff. For more information on eligibility or making an appointment, visit the state’s vaccine website at dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/Vaccine.aspx.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has opened a volunteer call center to help those age 65 and older who are not able to navigate the online PrepMOD appointment registration process. The KPB Call Center will operate from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday. The following phone numbers can be used to contact the Call Center: Central peninsula, 907-262-4636; Homer, 907-235-4636; Seward, 907-224-4636.

Of the 59,600 additional vaccine doses Alaska is slated to get in February, South Peninsula Hospital was notified Wednesday that it will receive 500 doses of that. The doses will be of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, according to hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro. Appointments for eligible people will open at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, and the hospital will hold a second mass vaccination clinic on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5-6 at Christian Community Church, as part of Homer’s Unified Command team.

The clinic is by appointment only and will not accept walk-ins. Appointments can be made online at www.sphosp.org, or over the phone at the city’s help line, 907-435-3188.

If a person got on a wait list for the first vaccine clinic earlier this month, they still need to make a separate appointment for this clinic, Ferraro wrote in an email.

During her update to the Homer City Council at their Monday meeting as part of the Unified Command team, Ferraro reflected on the hospital’s mass vaccination clinic for seniors on Jan. 15-16. She corrected the total number of people who were vaccinated to 714, and echoed other sentiments that the event went smoothly.

According to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard, 105,846 vaccine doses have been administered out of the total 114,800 allocated to the state so far. Of those, 84,746 Alaskans have gotten their initial dose, and 21,100 have completed their vaccination series. Alaska currently has the highest vaccination rate of any U.S. state, according to the New York Times.

Here on the southern Kenai Peninsula, the combination of the mass senior vaccine clinic, internal vaccine clinics for health care workers through the hospital, and other entities that have offered the vaccine has resulted in more than 10% of the total population being vaccinated, Ferraro reported.

The southern peninsula’s population is about 15,000. The hospital vaccinated 353 staff and local health care workers, as well as 714 senior citizens. Ferraro said that NTC Community Clinic in Ninilchik, SVT Health & Wellness and the Safeway pharmacy have administered more than 200 vaccines each.

“Even an out of town pharmacy had a contract to do some of the assisted living (vaccines) in the greater Homer area,” Ferraro said. “So when you add all of those plus numbers up to the 1,067, we have definitely reached and surpassed 10% of our 15,000 on the southern peninsula.”

Ferraro noted that the hospital still has a ways to go to reach all senior citizens on the southern peninsula, of which there are about 2,700.

Current patients of SVT Health & Wellness who have not already been contacted about the vaccine may call 907-226-2228 to get put on a waiting list. The clinic also welcomes new patients — a medical visit is required in order to establish care through SVT Health & Wellness.

Testing on the Kenai Peninsula:

Free COVID-19 tests are offered 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week at the lower level of the South Peninsula Hospital Specialty Clinic, at 4201 Bartlett Street, Homer. Please use the Danview Avenue access. Tests are for those who have had recent travel out of state, have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, have new onset of any symptom related to COVID-19, or have a provider referral. See the complete list of eligible individuals at www.sphosp.org or call the COVID information line at 235-0235. Please call and pre-register before coming if and when possible.

Testing is also available through the SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at 907-226-2228.

In Ninilchik, NTC Community Clinic is providing testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The testing is only for those traveling, symptomatic, needing testing for medical procedures, or with a known exposure after seven days. Only 20 tests will be offered per day. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.

On the central peninsula, testing is available 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.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Seward, Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and North Star Health Clinic.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.