Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks on July 7, 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Austin McDaniel/Office of the Governor)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks on July 7, 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Austin McDaniel/Office of the Governor)

Additional hospital staff test positive for COVID-19 as state count continues to rise

Alaska recorded 91 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with 67 new resident cases and 24 new cases in nonresidents.

The single-day increase in resident cases, 67, represents a slight drop off after several days of large spikes in cases across the state. Of the 24 new nonresident cases, 12 of them are in Seward and two are in Soldotna. Cases reported each day by the Department of Health and Social Services on its coronavirus response hub website represent the cases that get reported to the state the day before.

Seward recently had a large outbreak of COVID-19 cases among staff members at a seafood processing plant, OBI Seafoods. The plant originally reported 98 employees had tested positive for COVID-19, and reported an additional 45 over the weekend. The state reports additional resident and nonresident cases each day, and has been addressing a backlog of test results, according to a recent press release.

Of the 67 new resident cases announced Wednesday, five are Kenai Peninsula residents. One of the new cases is a Homer resident, two are Kenai residents and two are Soldotna residents.

The Kenai Peninsula now has a total of 287 resident cases, with 100 people having recovered so far and 185 cases still active.

Statewide, there were 1,921 active cases as of Wednesday, while 854 people have recovered so far, according to state data. According to a press release from DHSS, cases among Alaska residents rose by 34% in the past week.

“Cases are expected to continue to rapidly rise,” the press release states, given the current rates at which Alaskans are social distancing and using face coverings.

Also locally, four additional employees of South Peninsula Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19 since the initial group of six tested positive earlier this summer, hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro told the Homer City Council at its Monday meeting.

This brings the total number of South Peninsula Hospital employees who have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic to 10. That’s out of about 480 total hospital employees, Ferraro said.

None of the new cases among staff are connected, Ferraro told the council. The staff members do not appear to have contracted the disease through their work at the hospital, either, she said.

“So far, internal mitigation strategies remain successful,” Ferraro said. “… Really the main lesson learned from these cases continues to be the value of masking at all times when with others. Since a person might be symptom free, but not COVID free, the importance of wearing a mask and keeping safe distances apart cannot be over emphasized.”

Statewide, there have been 125 hospitalizations so far for people with confirmed cases of COVID-19. That includes people who have since died or since recovered and gone home. As of Wednesday, there were 34 people being actively hospitalized for confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 11 people being hospitalized for suspected cases.

There have been a total of 22 deaths of Alaska residents that have been associated with the disease.

The other cases announced Wednesday come from the Municipality of Anchorage, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the City and Borough of Juneau, the Mat-Su Valley, the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area and the Valdez-Cordova Census Area.

Testing

South Peninsula Hospital held a free COVID-19 testing day last Thursday, at the Boat House Pavilion on the Homer Spit. Ferraro told the city council at its Monday meeting that the hospital collected test samples from about 50 people that day, which have been sent for testing.

As of Wednesday, South Peninsula Hospital had completed 6,126 total tests, according to Ferraro. Of those, 5,935 have come back negative and 91 were still pending. There have been a total of 100 positive test results so far at the hospital.

In Homer, testing continues to be available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at South Peninsula Hospital’s main entrance as well as through SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228.

Testing is also available at the NTC Community Clinic in Ninilchik. The NTC Community Clinic is the Indian Health Service provider for the Ninilchik Tribe. The clinic is providing testing with a rapid testing 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.

On the central 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 Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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