Local COVID-19 alert rate quadruples

State alert level per 100,000 people now is above 1,100.

COVID-19 positive case counts continued to rise on the southern Kenai Peninsula, with the alert level almost four times last week’s number. Twenty new cases at Homer High School over the past seven days — 4.63% of the total school population — prompted the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to mandate universal masking there starting today.

South Peninsula Hospital’s Long Term Care facility saw its first resident positive case during the pandemic, when one of 20 residents tested positive last Friday. Six staff tested positive and six more had to quarantine because of close contacts. The high case counts of COVID-19 prompted the hospital to cancel its Jan. 15 Wellness Walk.

The increase in cases is tempered by some encouraging news: South Peninsula Hospital had one admission of a person with COVID-19 in the past seven days, and as of Wednesday had no patients with COVID-19 at the hospital. Emergency Room and monoclonal antibody infusions also have not increased.

The hospital has a limited number of Sotrovimab, the only monoclonal antibody infusion recommended for patients infected with the omicron variant. Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the hospital only offers it to patients in these risk groups: immunocompromised people with risk factors such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, cerbrovascular disease, cirrhosis, liver disease, hepatitis, diabetes type 1 and 2, heart conditions; people not up to date on vaccinations and who are ages 75 and older or anyone age 65 and older with risk factors; people with mental health conditions including depression and schizophrenia; current or former smokers; people with obesity; pregnant people; and people with tuberculosis.

The southern peninsula’s surge follows an increase in statewide numbers. On Monday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 3,285 new cases for Jan. 7-9. That follows a Jan. 7 report for Jan. 5-6 of 3,640 new cases. Omicron variant cases continue to climb, with 20 confirmed as of Wednesday.

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. 5-11

Alert level: High

New total tests: 1,062 (tested through South Peninsula Hospital)

New positive tests: 113

Test positivity rate: 11%

New Emergency Room visits: 7

New hospitalizations: 1

Monoclonal antibody infusions: 13

Vaccinations: 156

Southern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Jan. 3-10): 956 per 100,000 or 134 actual; high alert level

Central Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Jan. 3-10): 507 per 100,000 or 188 actual; high alert level

Eastern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Jan. 3-10): 724 per 100,000 or 37 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: Homer High School, 20; Homer Middle School, 1; Fireweed Academy, 3; Paul Banks Elementary, 2; West Homer Elementary, 4; small communities (census regions less than 1,000), 0.

State numbers, Jan. 5-9

Alert level: High, 1,128,4 per 100,000

New cases: 6,742 residents, 182 nonresidents

Kenai Peninsula cases: Homer, 46; Kenai, 33; Soldotna, 52; Seward, 21; Anchor Point, 18; Nikiski, 3; Kenai Peninsula South, 8; Kenai Peninsula North, 16; Sterling, 14; Fritz Creek, 2.

Test positivity rate: 18.35% (Jan. 7)

Cumulative cases: 162,626 residents and 5,992 nonresidents

Total hospitalizations: 3,290

Current hospitalizations: 80, five under investigation; 9 new hospitalizations since Jan. 5.

Patients on ventilators: 8

Hospitalization rate: 6.4%

New deaths: 1

Cumulative deaths: 948 residents, 31 nonresidents

Vaccination information: 63.1% of Alaska’s eligible population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 57.7% of eligible Alaskans have completed a full vaccination series.

Testing locations

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. Home kits are available for pick up while closed. 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 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.