COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Alaska alert level remains higher than national average.

The COVID-19 positive test rate continues to rise on the southern Kenai Peninsula, with three new cases reported among school students or staff over the weekend. None of the school cases were from in-school or school-related activities transmission, said Pegge Erkeneff, Kenai Peninsula School District Director of Communications.

“All the mitigation plans are working,” she said, referencing measures like mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing.

KPBSD schools still require face masks for in-school attendance. On April 7 the district did relax the rules and not require face coverings for outside activities such as recess or physical education if social distancing can be maintained.

The three cases involved staff or students at Homer Middle School, Homer High School and McNeil Canyon Elementary School. Contact tracers have identified 39 close contacts of the patients, and all are quarantining. Close contacts who are fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine, Erkeneff said. “Fully vaccinated” means the person has received all the shots in the series and is two weeks beyond the last dose.

Under new health guidelines, the former 14-day quarantine period can end after 10 days if there are no symptoms of illness or if the person has a negative COVID-19 test on day six of exposure and they have no symptoms they can end the quarantine on day eight after exposure.

An email was sent out to families of staff and students at the three schools explaining that there had been positive cases. Erkeneff said the email was not sent out until all 39 close contacts had been identified and contacted.

Statewide, DHSS reported 107 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday for the Monday, April 19 period, seven of which were among nonresidents. On the Kenai Peninsula, Anchor Point had three new cases. Soldotna had two and the Kenai Peninsula-north had one. Elsewhere in the state, Fairbanks had 20 cases, Anchorage had 19, Wasilla had 19, Palmer had 15, North Pole had seven, Dillingham had two, Ketchikan had two, and there were one each in Bethel, Big Lake, Eagle River, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Houston, Kodiak, the Kusilvak Census Area, Nome and Valdez.

The southern peninsula moved into the high alert level this week, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District dashboard. There have been 21 reported resident positive cases of COVID-19 reported in the past 14 days, with eight in Anchor Point, 12 in Homer and one in the other Kenai Peninsula Borough south location.

There have now been a cumulative total of 62,681 COVID-19 cases in the state of Alaska, according to state data. Of those, 2,655 cases have been among nonresidents. A total of 310 Alaska resident deaths have been related to COVID-19, while four nonresidents have died with the disease while in Alaska.

Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The alert level statewide is high, with 22.55 cases per 100,000 people. That compares with the national average of 20 per 100,000. On the peninsula, the alert level also is high, at 20.36 cases per 100,000. The alert level for the central peninsula is 26.2 per 100,000 and for the southern peninsula is 10.7 per 100,000.

As of Tuesday, there were 33 people being hospitalized in Alaska for COVID-19, as well as six additional persons being hospitalized for a suspected case of the virus. According to the state’s hospital data dashboard, 3.5% of all people hospitalized in the state are being hospitalized for COVID-19. One person is on a ventilator.

There have been a cumulative total of 1,432 Alaska residents hospitalized for COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic.

According to the South Peninsula Hospital’s tally of positive cases through April, on the Kenai Peninsula there have been 4,163 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, with 701 in the hospital service area, 75 in Anchor Point, 19 in Fritz Creek, 491 in Homer and 116 in other small villages or census areas on the southern peninsula. That’s an increase of 11 cases from April 12 to April 19.

As of April 19, the hospital has done 21,203 tests, of which 20,527 were negative, 529 were positive and 27 are pending.

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. 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 Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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