Anchor Point man is 10th Alaskan to die from COVID-19

An Anchor Point man in his 80s with underlying health conditions has died from COVID-19, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported Wednesday. He is the first person to die of the disease within the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

South Peninsula Hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro said the man died on Tuesday.

The man’s case was reported by the state last Thursday. He tested positive for COVID-19 upon being admitted to South Peninsula Hospital last week, according to a joint press release from the City of Homer and South Peninsula Hospital.

“I wish to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends as they grieve the passing of their loved one,” said Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce in a statement included in the press release. “The loss experienced in Anchor Point is certainly a somber reminder that we must continue to practice the safeguards against spreading this disease.”

This man marks the 10th death of an Alaska resident due to COVID-19 so far. An Anchor Point man in his 30s died from the disease already, but was not in Alaska when he died.

“The patient was originally transported to the hospital by Anchor Point Fire & Emergency Services,” the joint release states. “Emergency personnel responded wearing the recommended personal protective equipment and adhered to protocols, ensuring proper decontamination of equipment and apparatus.”

Public Health officials have contacted anyone who may have been exposed to the disease and given instructions on how to get tested, quarantine and prevent its further spread. Public Health nurses will continue to follow up with these contacts, monitoring their condition, according to the release.

The Anchor Point man was one of a handful of new cases that had been announced on the southern Kenai Peninsula late last week. His case was announced April 30 along with that of a Homer woman in her 60s, who is recovering at home. Another Homer resident was found to be positive for the disease, and their case was announced Sunday. That resident is a man in his 60s who is being hospitalized.

In addition to this 10th death, the state reported one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday on its coronavirus response website, bringing the total number of cases to 372. The new case comes from Tok, the first case to be identified in that community.

Cases reported to the state are recorded on the state’s coronavirus response website the following day.

Including the Homer man in his 60s, there have been 38 total cumulative hospitalizations in the state. This is the number that includes people currently hospitalized, but also those who have since gotten better or since died.

The number of people currently being hospitalized in the state is eight. These are people who either have confirmed cases of COVID-19 or haven’t yet tested positive, but have symptoms.

So far, 284 Alaskans have gone on to recover from the disease, the state reports.

The state’s 372 cases are spread out across 25 Alaska communities. As of Tuesday evening, there are 169 cases in Anchorage, six in Chugiak, 12 in Eagle River and three in Girdwood. In the Fairbanks North Star Borough, there are 64 cases in Fairbanks, 18 in North Pole and one in a community labeled “other.” In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, there are nine cases in Palmer and 12 in Wasilla. In the Southeast, Juneau has 27 cases, Ketchikan has 16, Petersburg has four, Craig has two and Sitka has one. Bethel, Kodiak, Nome, Delta Junction, Tok and the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area each have one case.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Anchor Point has had two cases, Homer has four, Kenai has four, Soldotna has six, Seward has three and Sterling has three. Of these cases, one was an Anchor Point man in his 30s who died outside of Alaska, and one is the Anchor Point man whose death was announced Wednesday.

Of the four total Homer cases, one is a Homer resident who was tested and isolated in Anchorage.

Of the three cases that area actually within the Homer community, one is travel related and two are from community transmission.

The Homer woman in her 60s told the Homer News last week she has been on work furlough since early March, and other than trips for groceries, has stayed isolated at her apartment. Upon advice from Public Health nurses, she has been quarantined since her test on April 28. She said she wore a face mask while shopping, and has been washing her hands and using sanitizer, she said. The woman is currently recovering.

In am email earlier this week, Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll said of the three recent lower peninsula cases, evidence shows a possible connection between two of them.

“Given that the connection is not clear, it suggests that there is additional COVID-19 activity in the community that we’re unaware of, which is not a surprise,” Carroll wrote.

He noted that most cases of COVID-19 are mild cases and some might not get evaluated or tested.

Locally, South Peninsula Hospital has collected 437 samples for testing, according to Ferraro. Of those, four have come back positive, 348 have come back negative and 85 are still pending.

Anyone with new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 is being encouraged to get tested. Those symptoms are: cough, chills, difficulty breathing, diminished sense of taste or smell, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, headache, muscle/joint aches, nausea, rash, chills with shivering, runny nose, sore throat, or increased sputum (phlegm) production.

To inquire about getting tested, call your local health care provider. If you don’t have one, call the South Peninsula Hospital COVID-19 nurse line at 907-235-0235. Testing is available in the drive-up tent outside the hospital 24/7.

Reach Megan Pacer at Michael Armstrong contributed to this article.