Case count dips after 5 record days of positive cases

Alaska has had 1,338 cases of the disease since the state began tracking the pandemic in March.

After five straight days of record new resident positive cases of COVID-19, the case count for Alaska dropped to 27 resident cases for the Saturday reporting period, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced in its Sunday, July 5 report.

DHSS also announced two new COVID-19-related deaths on Friday and Saturday, bringing the total number of Alaskans dead to 16. Four of the deaths were of Alaskans living Outside. The death announced on Friday was a male Anchorage resident in his 80s who died in early June. DHSS did not release details on the age or sex of the death announced on Saturday. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, a death is counted as COVID-19 related if the disease is considered to be a contributing cause.

The residency for a woman who died in New Jersey and reported to be from Juneau has been disputed by her niece. The niece said she has power of attorney for her aunt, and that she thinks this led to confusion about her aunt’s legal residency.

Of the 27 new cases, Anchorage had 22, Fairbanks two, Seward two and Palmer one, bringing the total count to 1,138. On Saturday, DHSS announced 48 new resident cases, the highest number since the pandemic started in March.

DHSS also announced five new nonresidents cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 235.

Of the 27 new resident cases, 12 are male and 15 are female. Three are under the age of 10; one is aged 10-19; eight are aged 20-29; four are aged 30-39; five are aged 40-49; five are aged 60-69 and one is aged 70-79.

For the five new nonresident cases, one was from the Bristol Bay and Lake & Peninsula boroughs working in the seafood industry, one was from the Fairbanks North Star Borough working in an unidentified industry, one was a visitor to the Municipality of Anchorage, one was a seafood worker in the Petersburg Borough, and one was a worker in an unidentified industry in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area.

Recovered cases now total 548, with four new recovered cases recorded on Saturday. There are 574 active cases with 19 currently hospitalized for COVID-19 or suspected cases. A total of 123,753 tests have been conducted. The average percentage of daily positive tests for the previous three days is 1.26%.

For statewide hospital resources, 927 inpatient beds are in use with 922 available, 87 intensive-care unit beds are in use with 11 available, and 44 ventilators are in use with 303 available. Of the 44 ventilators in use, three are being used by someone positive for COVID-19 or under investigation for COVID-19 positivity.

Sunday’s report was for data in from midnight to 11:59 p.m. July 4 that was posted at noon on the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub. According to statistical modeling on the response hub, positive case counts are predicted to keep rising through July 15.

Seward has recently seen an outbreak of cases, with 31 positive cases of COVID-19 identified since June 26, according to a Thursday release from the city of Seward. DHSS reported two new cases on Sunday.

Wednesday, the city passed new regulations regarding public parks, face masks and large gatherings in response to the outbreak.

The Seward City Council adopted Emergency Ordinance 2020-008, which requires the wearing of masks or cloth face coverings in buildings open to the public when 6 feet of social distance cannot be maintained. Exceptions are made for children under 4, those with breathing problems and those with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask.

All city-owned campgrounds will operate at 50% capacity for recreational camping purposes. In-person gatherings of 20 or more people are prohibited, except for gatherings where the purpose is the exercising of constitutional rights.

All eating and drinking establishments, retail stores, tourism operations and places of worship are limited to an indoor seating capacity of 10 people or 50% maximum occupancy, whichever is higher.

The emergency ordinance took effect immediately and remains in effect for 30 days or until the COVID-19 emergency declaration is rescinded.

COVID-19 testing is available in Seward at four locations, but availability and hours may be suspended due to the Independence Day Holiday.

For testing information at Providence Seward Medical Center, call 907-224-5205.

For testing information at Seward Community Health Center, call 907-224-2273.

For testing information at Glacier Family Medicine, call 907-224-8733.

For testing information at North Star Health Clinic, call 907-224-3490.

Rapid-testing in Ninilchik

Adding to the testing efforts on the southern Kenai Peninsula, 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. According to Tribal Health Director Janet Mullen, 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 at NTC Community Clinic, Mullen said in an email. If supplies start to become limited, the clinic will scale back, she said.

The clinic has completed 350 tests to date and has had a total of six positive test results. All those who have tested positive out of the NTC Community Clinic have since recovered, Mullen said.

To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.

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 clincis at 907-226-2228.

Testing is also 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.

The total positive resident case count for the Kenai Peninsula is 164, with eight in Anchor Point, three in Fritz Creek, 42 in Homer, 17 in Kenai, five in Nikiski, three in the northern peninsula, 28 in the southern peninsula, 33 in Seward, 22 in Soldotna and three in Sterling. Two people have died with Kenai Peninsula residency, both from Anchor Point.

Reach Michael Armstrong at Homer News reporter Megan Pacer and Peninsula Clarion reporter Brian Mazurek also contributed to this story.