Central Peninsula Hospital is once again operating at full capacity, as health care workers wait to see how the omicron variant of the coronavirus will impact the system.
Bruce Richards, the external affairs director at CPH, said the facility was operating at 106% Monday, even without a lot of COVID hospitalizations.
“This weekend we had a pretty big influx of patients,” he said. “We just have a lot of sick people.”
To protect patient privacy, CPH doesn’t report the total number of COVID patients when there are fewer than 11 hospitalized, Richards said. There haven’t been more than 11 COVID patients hospitalized at the facility since Nov. 8, according to the hospital website.
Even though COVID numbers have tapered off in recent weeks, Richards said health care staff are preparing for a surge from the omicron variant.
“We’re as prepared as we can be; we’ve gone through a couple waves,” he said. “There’s not much more you can do.”
Richards said it’s not a matter of if omicron will make its way through the central peninsula, but when.
The Associated Press reported Monday that omicron accounted for 73% of new COVID infections last week, just approximately a month after the strain was labeled a variant concern by the World Health Organization.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, omicron is likely to be more transmissible, but it’s unclear how severe the variant is.
Richards said the staff is hoping the omicron strain won’t cause severe disease, especially as the CPH staff have recently come down from the deadly delta surge that left more people hospitalized and dead than the first wave did, before vaccines were approved.
“Our hope is that people are able to manage their symptoms,” Richards said. “Hopefully (most) don’t need hospital attention.”
He said one piece of guidance remains well-supported, that people need to get fully vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible.
“Having a booster shot really helps for protection from omicron,” Richards said. “It really adds to the efficacy.”
As of Monday, 60.1% of Alaskans 5 and older were fully vaccinated, and another 67.2% had received at least one dose. The Kenai Peninsula Borough is further behind in its vaccination efforts, with 47.4% of people 5 and older fully vaccinated and 51.3% with at least one shot as of Monday.
Pfizer is approved for everyone 5 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are approved for anyone 18 and older.
Pfizer and Moderna boosters are also recommended for anyone 18 and older and six months out from their second dose.
The J&J vaccine booster is recommended two months after the primary dose, although the Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it was revising its fact sheet for the J&J shot to include more data on the risks of blood clotting associated with the vaccine.
Getting a vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.
Many organizations on the central peninsula, including Walmart, Walgreens, the Kenai Fire Department and Kenai Public Health, offer vaccines. They are also available for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.
Additionally, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy hosts a walk-in clinic in its strip mall storefront at the “Y” intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways from Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Vaccination appointments can also be scheduled through the online portal PrepMod, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.
A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.
People who would like assistance scheduling a vaccination appointment can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The central peninsula call center can be reached at 907-262-4636. The Homer call center can be reached at 907-235-4636. The Seward call center can be reached at 907-224-4636.
Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.
In Kenai, testing is available at the Chignik Lagoon Clinic, Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic.
In Soldotna, testing is available at the Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.
In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy. The Seward Community Health Center at 417 First Avenue is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays only. Bring a face covering and photo ID.
In Homer, testing is available at South Peninsula Hospital, or through other area health care providers at Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness, Kachemak Medical Group and Homer Medical Center.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at email@example.com.