Following a dramatic increase in COVID-19 positive cases on the southern Kenai Peninsula, all Homer area schools have gone to universal masking. At Homer High School, the seven-day rate as of Wednesday morning had 38 cases, an 8.8% positivity rate, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
The mask rule applies to Homer Flex School, Homer High School, Homer Middle School, Paul Banks Elementary School and West Homer Elementary School. Fireweed Academy has had universal masking since the start of the school year. Chapman School in Anchor Point and McNeil Canyon Elementary School do not yet have universal masking.
Following a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a vaccination mandate for health care workers at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, South Peninsula Hospital has reinstituted its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, SPH Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro wrote in an email. The mandate was first imposed in early November by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but put on hold following legal challenges, including one by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. SPH is now requiring health care staff to be either vaccinated or have a medical or religious exemption on file. Ferraro said all but 30 employees out of about 600 have either been vaccinated or filed exemptions.
The southern Kenai Peninsula continues to have the highest COVID-19 positivity rate, with 2,241 cases per 100,000 people, or 314 actual cases over the past seven days. The central peninsula has 1,024 cases per 100,000 or 380 actual, and the eastern peninsula has 626 cases per 100,000 or 32 actual.
In one day alone, the southern peninsula had 86 cases.
The southern peninsula’s surge follows an increase in statewide numbers. On Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 10,202 new cases for Jan. 14-18 and 63 new resident deaths and one new nonresident death, for 1,018 resident deaths.
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, Jan. 12-19
Alert level: High
New total tests: 1,236 (tested through South Peninsula Hospital)
New positive tests: 238
Test positivity rate: 19%
New Emergency Room visits: 15
New hospitalizations: 1
Monoclonal antibody infusions: 4
Hospital staff vaccinations: 376 or 71%
Southern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Jan. 12-19): 2,241 per 100,000 or 314 actual; high alert level
Central Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Jan. 12-19): 1,024 per 100,000 or 380 actual; high alert level
Eastern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Jan. 12-190): 626 per 100,000 or 32 actual; high alert level
New deaths: 0
Cumulative deaths: 20 residents (10 in Homer, eight in Anchor Point, two in Kenai Peninsula South)
Vaccination information: 75.2% of Homer’s population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 70% of eligible residents have completed a full vaccination series. In Anchor Point, 50.6% have received a first dose and 47% are fully vaccinated. In the other Kenai Peninsula south, 24.8% have received a first dose and 22.6% are fully vaccinated.
School cases: Chapman School, 2; Homer High School, 38; Homer Middle School, 7; Homer Flex School, 4; Fireweed Academy, 5; Paul Banks Elementary, 6; McNeil Canyon, 3; West Homer Elementary, 5; small communities (census regions less than 1,000), 3.
State numbers, Jan. 14-1
Alert level: High, 2,099.7 per 100,000
New cases: 9,962 residents, 240 nonresidents
Kenai Peninsula cases (Jan. 12-19): Homer, 206; Kenai, 146; Soldotna, 173; Seward, 719; Anchor Point, 34; Nikiski, 9; Kenai Peninsula South, 70; Kenai Peninsula North, 32; Sterling, 20; Fritz Creek, 4.
Cumulative cases: 182,285 residents and 6,527 nonresidents
Total hospitalizations: 3,373
Current hospitalizations: 116, 10 under investigation; 36 new
Patients on ventilators: 5
Hospitalization rate: 9.8%
Cumulative deaths: 1,018 residents, 32 nonresidents
Vaccination information: 63.4% of Alaska’s eligible population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 58% 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. 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 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).