Homer downgrades alert level to yellow

Alert level remains high statewide with 19.93 cases per 100,000.

As COVID-19 case counts remained low in Homer and the southern Kenai Peninsula, the city of Homer upgraded its alert leverl from orange to yellow last week. On a scale of green-yellow-orange-red, with red being the highest alert level, that means that the city can open to the public the Homer Public Library and activities at the Homer Education and Recreation Complex.

Also this week, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday at a press conference in Kenai that he believes the pandemic is “in the rearview mirror” and that the state can start “moving ahead” even as case rates continue to rise statewide.

The state of Alaska is currently considered to be at high-risk level, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services metrics reported April 6, with 22.31 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days.

That is compared to approximately 18 cases per 100,000 people two weeks ago. Unfortunately, with higher case counts for the peninsula as a whole, the peninsula is also considered high risk, with an average of 16.97 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days, according to state data.

Homer has had no reported resident positive cases since March 14. A positive case by a nonresident tested in Homer was reported on Tuesday for the period of April 2-5.

Those low case counts in Homer prompted the city to make some facilities more accessible.

“It’s opening up a little more based on our really low transmission numbers locally,” said Homer Public Information Officer Jenny Carroll.

At the library, walk-in hours are 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. For people who do not feel comfortable with walk-in services, curbside pickup remains available. Facemasks are required at the library, the HERC and all city facilities. Accomodations are available for people who cannot wear facemasks for medical reasons. For a full list of library services, visit www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/library/library-services-update.

The city also is completing a remodel of the Cowles Council Chambers that will allow in-person attendance by Homer City Council members and staff and the public, with again face masks required. Meetings also will be available via Zoom, including remote public testimony. Carroll said the remodel has been stalled by availability of some electronic equipment needed. Protocols also are being decided for the hybrid model of public meetings.

Statewide, DHSS reported 217 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday for the Tuesday, April 6 period, six of which were among nonresidents.

In Homer, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District dashboard, there have been no reported resident positive cases of COVID-19 reported in the past 14 days. There was one nonresident case reported on Tuesday.

There have now been a cumulative total of 61,695 COVID-19 cases in the state of Alaska, according to state data. Of those, 2,608 cases have been among nonresidents. A total of 309 Alaska resident deaths have been related to COVID-19, while four nonresidents have died with the disease while in Alaska.

As of Wednesday, there were 36 people being hospitalized in Alaska for COVID-19, as well as seven additional person being hospitalized for a suspected case of the virus. According to the state’s hospital data dashboard, 4.4% of all people hospitalized in the state are being hospitalized for COVID-19. Nine are on ventilators.

There have been a cumulative total of 1,382 Alaska residents hospitalized for COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic.

The southern Kenai Peninsula, measured from Ninilchik south, has had five new cases of COVID-19 identified over the last 14 days. The peninsula as a whole has had 109 new cases of the virus identified over the last two weeks.

According to the South Peninsula Hospital’s tally of positive cases through April, on the Kenai Peninsula there have been 3,997 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, with 683 in the hospital service area, 70 in Anchor Point, 19 in Fritz Creek, 479 in Homer and 115 in other small villages or census areas on the southern peninsula.

As of March 29, the hospital has done 20,475 tests, of which 514 were positive and 100 are pending.

Testing 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. 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. Peninsula Clarion reporter Camille Botello contributed to this story.