DHSS: 13 additional deaths tied to COVID-19

Coronavirus activity is up at South Peninsula Hospital

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 583 new cases of COVID-19 statewide, and 13 new deaths of Alaska residents tied to the illness. It was not immediately clear whether the 13 residents had all died recently.

Of the new cases reported Tuesday, five of them were among nonresidents. Cases reported out by DHSS each day reflect the number of cases that get reported to the state the day before.

Alaska now has a cumulative total of 27,669 resident cases of COVID-19 and 1,194 total nonresident cases.

Local hospital update

As COVID-19 activity rises around the state, it’s also beginning to increase locally at South Peninsula Hospital.

In the two-week period from Nov. 9 through this Monday, SPH recorded five hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients, COVID-19 Incident Command Liaison Officer Christine Anderson reported to the Homer City Council during their Monday meeting. She is filling in for Hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro.

Anderson later clarified that, of the five COVID-19 patient admissions, two were for COVID-19 treatment, one was admitted as a person under investigation, and one was a repeat admission for a different health issue who tested positive for COVID-19.

Within that same two week period, South Peninsula Hospital recorded 10 COVID-19-related visits to the emergency room.

As of Monday, Anderson told the council that nine staff members in the hospital’s Long Term Care wing are positive for COVID-19. The hospital has re-tested all residents and was waiting for those results at the time of her report to the council.

Also on Monday, 13 South Peninsula Hospital employees were home from work due to testing positive for COVID-19, Anderson said in an email. An additional 15 staff members are also out quarantining due to being a close contact of a COVID-19-positive person. These staff numbers have been changing daily, Anderson noted.

Anderson also noted in a later email that, when it comes to hospital staff, the majority are quarantining as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 from outside of work. So far, there have been no occurrences of a staff member having to quarantine as a close contact with a known positive that was related to direct patient care, Anderson wrote.

As of Monday, South Peninsula Hospital had conducted a total of 13,086 COVID-19 tests, with 12,479 of those coming back negative and 323 still pending. The hospital has had a total of 284 positive rest results since the pandemic began. Of those cases, 39% of them have been identified in just the last two weeks, with 23.5% having been identified within the last week.

Statewide COVID-19 data

Of the 13 new deaths of Alaska residents added to Tuesday’s data on the state’s coronavirus response hub, three are of Kenai Peninsula residents. Two of the newly recorded deaths were people whose residency was listed as Soldotna, and the third was a person whose residence was listed as Sterling.

In addition to the 13 deaths added to the state data, DHSS also reported a cumulative total of 619 residents and 12 non residents who have been hospitalized in the state for COVID-19. Those numbers do not include those who have recovered or those who have since died.

On Tuesday, the state reported 126 people are actively being hospitalized for COVID-19, while another 13 are being hospitalized for suspected cases while awaiting test results. As of Tuesday, 21 people statewide were in ventilators.

Alaska’s percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is now 15.3%. In the Gulf Coast region, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, Cordova and Valdez, there were 14 people being hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and one person hospitalized for a suspected case. In the Gulf Coast region, only three adult ICU beds were available as of Tuesday, though 27 out of 28 ventilators remained available.

The state reports a total of 115 Alaska residents whose deaths were tied to COVID-19.

On the Kenai Peninsula, the state reported 20 new COVID-19 cases in Soldotna on Tuesday, as well as 16 new cases in Kenai, two in Sterling, two in Seward, two in Kenai Peninsula North, one in Nikiski, five in Homer, one in Fritz Creek and one in Anchor Point.

In the state as a whole, DHSS reported 328 new cases Tuesday in Anchorage, 38 in Eagle River, 28 in Wasilla, 20 in Soldotna, 16 in Kenai, 15 in Bethel, 14 in Nome, 13 each in Kodiak and Fairbanks, 12 in Utqiagvik, nine in Palmer, seven each in Chugaik and the Bethel Census Area, six each in Juneau, Delta Junction and North Pole, five each in Homer and Cordova, four in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, three in Kotzebue, two each in Girdwood, Kenai Peninsula North, Seward, Sterling, Kodiak Island Borough, and Aleutians East Borough, and one each in Anchor Point, Fritz Creek, Nikiski, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Nome Census Area, the Northwest Arctic Borough, Douglas, the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area, Sitka, the Aleutians West Census Area and the Kuslivak Census Area.

Of the new nonresident visitor cases reported Tuesday, one was in Eagle River, one was in the Northwest Arctic Borough and three were unknown.

The state has now conducted 943,401 COVID-19 tests, and has a seven-day average positivity rate of 6.78%. The average turnaround time for results through the state laboratory is currently 3.3 days, according to state data.

Testing locations on the Kenai Peninsula

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. Testing is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26.Please use the Danview Avenue access. Tests are for those who have had recent travel out of state, have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, have new onset of any symptom related to COVID-19, or have a provider referral. See the complete list of eligible individuals at www.sphosp.org or call the COVID information line at 235-0235. 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 Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information from South Peninsula Hospital regarding the nature of employees quarantining after being identified as close contacts of others with COVID-19.