Homer man dies of COVID-19

Latest death is part of a report of 78 new Alaska deaths reported this week.

A Homer man aged 80 or older is among 28 deaths from COVID-19 the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced on Tuesday. Another Kenai peninsula man from Soldotna in his 60s was also reported to have died on Tuesday. Those deaths follow on another 53 deaths reported on Monday, including three nonresidents. The total death count is now 792 Alaska deaths.

To date, 17 people have died of COVID-19 on the southern peninsula.

Because of patient privacy, DHSS does not release the person’s name, exact age or date of death.

The large number of deaths reported came after death certificate reviews, DHSS wrote in its data summary. The deaths occurred from August through November, with most fatalities in September for Monday’s report and for October in Tuesday’s report. Many suspected deaths of COVID-19 undergo death certificate review before being officially announced. A person is reported to have died of COVID-19 if the disease is the immediate or an underlying cause of death. For more information on the process, see https://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/epi/id/pages/covid-19/deathcounts.aspx.

Vaccination efforts continue, with South Peninsula Hospital holding its first mass vaccination clinic last Saturday for children ages 5-11. At the Homer City Council meeting on Monday, South Peninsula Hospital Public Information Officer and Director of Communications Derotha Ferraro reported that 101 vaccinations were given to children and 145 booster shots were given to adults. Last week the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an emergency authorization to administer the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 5-11.

“We have been waiting for this moment ever since the rest of the family could get vaccinated, so we are super thrilled this opportunity is available for 5 to 11 year olds in our community,” said one parent, Hannah Gustafson, at Saturday’s clinic.

SPH will continue to offer the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 5-11 by appointment every Wednesday and Saturday at its Bartlett Street COVID-19 clinic. For this week only, COVID-19 vaccines also are available for regular patients for free by appointment on Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 1 – 4 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Homer Medical Clinic.

On Nov. 4, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine requirements of staff at health facilities that received Medicare and Medicaid payments. CMS has set a Dec. 5 deadline for staff to receive their first dose of a two-dose vaccine or single dose of a one-dose vaccine. This week, South Peninsula Hospital is holding conversations with staff and union representatives to make sure they’re involved in the process for developing local guidelines, Ferraro said. CMS allows for religious and medical exemptions to a vaccine provided there are mitigation policies in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“Our hospital’s goal is to have its policy clearly written and exemption forms by this Friday,” Ferraro said.

On Wednesday, however, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Alaska will join Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming in a lawsuit challenging the CMS decision.

“This new rule is an insult to the personal freedoms of the health-care heroes who have been critical to Alaska’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dunleavy said in the press release. “This is unconstitutional and yet another example of the Biden Administration’s overreach on issues that should be left to the states.”

Alaska had 142 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and another five considered persons under investigation with COVID-19. As of Tuesday’s report for Monday, Nov. 8, 2,878 Alaskans have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic. There were 23 new hospitalizations on Monday, with 23 on ventilators. The percentage of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is 13.1%.

Alaska remains in the high alert level at 532.9 cases per 100,000 people. For Tuesday’s report, 386 new Alaskans tested positive, as did two nonresidents, for 138,535 Alaskans and 5,313 nonresidents total.

On the Kenai Peninsula, for Tuesday’s report there were four new cases in Soldotna, two in Kenai, four in Homer, and one each for Sterling, Kenai Peninsula South and Kenai Peninsula North.

For the reporting period of Nov. 3-10, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the southern Kenai Peninsula has seen 70 cases, with 43 for Homer, 12 for Anchor Point, 12 for the Kenai Peninsula South and three for Fritz Creek. That’s a decrease over the 99 positive cases reported by DHSS for the week before.

According to the Kenai Peninsula School District’s COVID-19 dashboard, the southern peninsula on Wednesday had 435 cases per 100,000 or 61 actual compared to 439 cases per 100,000 or 163 actual for the central peninsula. The eastern peninsula has the lowest rate of cases per 100,000 at 215 or 11 actual.

South Peninsula Hospital has done 693 COVID-19 tests with 43 positive for the week of Nov. 3-10, Ferraro wrote in an email on Wednesday. That’s a 6% positivity rate, down from 10% last week. In the same time period, there were six COVID-19 related visits to the emergency department, which is down from 13 last week. The hospital did 20 outpatient monoclonal antibody infusions and administered 248 vaccinations at its clinic in addition to the 101 pediatric doses and 145 booster dose given at last Saturday’s clinic. In the same time period, two new COVID-19 patients were admitted.

At South Peninsula Hospital, because of the level of community spread of COVID-19, entrance to its facilities is limited to those with appointments for medical care, persons seeking care and one visitor per patient for their visit or stay. Visitors for patients who are COVID-19 positive or are under investigation of having COVID-19 will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Long Term Care is open to pre-approved visitors by appointment.

Testing locations

Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.

Testing is 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the SPH COVID-19 clinic on Bartlett Street 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 to anyone 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 65 years and older, age 18+ who live in long-term care settings, age 50 years and older with underlying medical conditions, or anyone who is at least two months after their Janssen vaccine.

Boosters are also available to anyone who is six months or more after their initial series of the Pfizer or Moderna series based on their individual health benefit and risk evaluation for individuals: age 18+ who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 exposure because of their work or live in high-risk settings or age 18 years and older who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and boosters also are offered daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. t0 7 p.m. Tuesdays. Janssen vaccines are offered only on Sundays and Tuesdays.

Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5-11 are available by appointment from every 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 at Homer Medical Center, 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 Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are offered.

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 marmstrong@homernews.com.

Skylar Dunn gets a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic held Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Jane Dunn)

Skylar Dunn gets a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic held Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Jane Dunn)