The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 21 more deaths from COVID-19 in its weekly data summary last Wednesday. The deaths included a man in his 80s from the northern Kenai Peninsula. Alaska’s death toll from the pandemic now stands at 1,081.
DHSS now only reports new confirmed COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday.
Starting March 1, the South Peninsula Hospital testing and vaccine clinic will start offering COVID-19 vaccines only on Sunday and Monday due to a marked decline in vaccinations recently, said SPH Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro. Weekly totals had averaged 50 vaccinations, but on Monday, only two vaccines were given. Vaccines will be given from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on those days. That can be adjusted if demand increases, Ferraro said.
“We will flex with demand as we have done all along the course of the pandemic,” she said.
Ferraro noted that if someone is in need of a vaccine on the other days of the week, many local physician offices offer vaccines, as does the Safeway pharmacy.
SPH COVID nurses also will be making another change effective March 1: they will no longer call people who test positive for COVID-19. That’s in alignment with State of Alaska Public Health decisions, Ferraro said. All individuals who test at the SPH COVID site will be instructed to check the patient portal for results, and if they are positive, rely on detailed printed instructions that are given to them at time of testing. Patients also can contact their providers or, if they don’t have a regular provide, the SPH COVID-19 clinic or public health.
“With the number of positives sharply declining, now is the perfect time to shift our processes and work to not only align with public health’s new processes, but support individuals connecting with their healthcare provider for advice specific to them,” Ferraro said. “The contact-tracing side of things is familiar to most, so as long as the person picked up their packet, they will have all the guidance they need. And we will be at the other end of the phone 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to help them navigate the process.”
Ferraro said that as of this week the hospital is compliant with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) COVID-19 vaccine mandate which requires all healthcare facilities to require staff to either be vaccinated against COVID-19, or have an approved exemption on file.
In an email last Thursday, Homer Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll provided more information on the two infants from Southcentral Alaska reported on Feb. 2 to have been COVID-19 related deaths. DHSS uses the same death reporting process for COVID-19 as with other diseases, Carroll wrote.
“If COVID-19 is identified as an underlying or contributing cause of death on the certificate (indicated by ICD-10 code = U07.1) the death is considered COVID-19-related and shared in the State’s COVID death dashboard,” he wrote.
In the case of the two pediatric deaths, death certificates for both identified COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death, Carroll wrote.
Death certificates have two parts. In Part I, the immediate and underlying causes of death are listed. For example, an immediate cause of death related to COVID-19 might be acute respiratory distress syndrome, with an underlying cause of pneumonia and then COVID-19. The last underlying cause is the one that initiated the sequence of events that resulted in a person dying.
Part II of the death certificate lists significant conditions that might contribute to the underlying causes of death. On the DHSS website explaining the death certificate review process at https://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/epi/id/pages/covid-19/deathcounts.aspx, a sample death certificate is shown where diabetes is given as an example of a contributing cause of death that over time made possible atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty tissue in artery walls. Atherosclerosis is listed in Part I as the first underlying cause of death that led to coronary thrombosis, or a heart blockage, then myocardial infarction, or a heart attack, followed by the immediate cause of death, the rupture of the myocardium or heart tissue.
For Feb. 11-13, the state reported 1,822 new resident COVID-19 cases and 42 nonresident cases, a drop in cases compared to last week. According to testing of cases through Jan. 9, about 98% of all new positive cases have been the highly infectious omicron variant.
DHSS encourages Alaskans to get vaccinated and to get booster shots, noting that it is the single most important action that can be taken to protect yourself and your community.
Southern Kenai Peninsula numbers, Feb. 9-15:
Alert level: High
New total tests: 580 (tested through South Peninsula Hospital)
New positive tests: 88
Test positivity rate: 15%
New COVID-related Emergency Room visits: 6
New COVID hospitalizations: 1
Monoclonal antibody infusions: 11
Southern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Feb. 9-15): 849 per 100,000 or 119 actual; high alert level
Central Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Feb. 9-15): 612 per 100,000 or 227 actual; high alert level
Eastern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Feb. 9-15): 646 per 100,000 or 33 actual; high alert level
New peninsula deaths: 1
Cumulative deaths: 20 residents (10 in Homer, eight in Anchor Point, two in Kenai Peninsula South)
Vaccination information: 75.9% of Homer’s population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 74.6% of eligible residents have completed a full vaccination series. In Anchor Point, 51.3% have received a first dose and 47.5% are fully vaccinated. In the other Kenai Peninsula south, 25.2% have received a first dose and 22.8% are fully vaccinated.
School cases: Chapman School, 2; Homer High School, 0; Homer Middle School, 0; Homer Flex School, 2; Fireweed Academy, 2; Paul Banks Elementary, 0; McNeil Canyon, 0; West Homer Elementary, 1; small communities (census regions less than 1,000), 0.
State numbers, Feb. 11-13
Alert level: High, 810.5 per 100,000
New cases: 1,822 residents, 42 nonresidents (one Homer nonresident case)
Kenai Peninsula cases (Feb. 9-15): Homer, 72; Kenai, 78; Soldotna, 105; Seward, 33; Anchor Point, 18; Nikiski, 8; Kenai Peninsula South, 27; Kenai Peninsula North, 20; Sterling, 16; Fritz Creek, 2.
Cumulative cases: 226,276 residents and 7,685 nonresidents; 30% of all Alaskans have now tested positive
Total hospitalizations: 3,514 (two new hospitalizations)
Current hospitalizations: 111 confirmed positive, one suspected positive
Patients on ventilators: 7
Hospitalization rate: 9.8%
State cumulative deaths: 1,081 residents, 33 nonresidents
Vaccination information: 64.3% of Alaska’s eligible population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 58.8% of eligible Alaskans have completed a full vaccination series.
Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.
The SPH COVID-19 testing and vaccine clinic is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at its Bartlett Street site. Testing is for people with symptoms, traveling, for pre-procedure screening and for exposure six days after exposure of after being at social gatherings.
SVT Health & Wellness offers testing at its three SVT Health & Wellness locations: 880 East End Road, Homer (226-2228); 72351 Milo Fritz Ave., Anchor Point (226-2238), and 206 Main Street, Seldovia (907-435-3262).
Where to get vaccinated
Following current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are available for anyone who is six months or more after their initial series of the Pfizer or Moderna series and are age 18 and older or anyone who is at least two months after their Janssen vaccine.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and boosters are offered daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays. Janssen vaccines are offered only on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5-11 are available by appointment on Wednesday and Saturday.
Vaccines also are offered by appointment at Homer Medical Clinic and the SPH Family Care Clinic. For more information at the Bartlett Street clinic, talk to your doctor or call 235-0235 for additional information. To make appointments, call 235-8586.
To make appointments at the South Peninsula Family Care Clinic, call 235-0900. The Moderna, Pfizer and Janssen vaccines are offered.
Safeway – Homer, 90 Sterling Highway, offers clinics 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday by appointment or walk-ins. Call 226-1060 for appointments. The Modern vaccine is available Monday-Friday by walk-in or appointment. The Pfizer vaccine is available daily for ages 12 and older by walk-in or appointment.
Kachemak Medical Group, 4129 Bartlett Street, offers vaccines by appointment. Call 235-7000.
Ulmer’s Pharmacy, 3858 Lake Street, offers Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines by appointment of walk-ins. Call 235-7760.
Ninilchik Clinic, 15765 Kingsley Road, Ninilchik offers Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines by appointment and Pfizer on demand. Call 907-567-3970.
SVT Health & Wellness offers Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen and Moderna vaccines for established medical patients of the three SVT Health & Wellness locations: 880 East End Road, Homer (226-2228); 72351 Milo Fritz Ave., Anchor Point (226-2238), and 206 Main Street, Seldovia (907-435-3262).
Reach Michael Armstrong at email@example.com.