Lower peninsula drops into substanial alert level

Six more Alaska deaths reported.

The Southern Kenai Peninsula dropped into the substantial risk category this week, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s 7-day count of positive COVID-19 tests. The risk level drops to substantial when case counts per 100,000 people are 100 or less. The southern peninsula had 14 actual cases for the period of March 25-31.

South Peninsula Hospital also saw a drop in the number of tests done and the positivity rate for the week of March 30 to April 5, with 339 new tests done, of which 26 were positive, an 8% positivity rate. That’s down from 10% for last week.

However, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported six new deaths last Wednesday, March 30, none of them on the peninsula. The Alaska death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic now stands at 1,195 resident deaths. DHSS reports deaths every Wednesday following death certificate reviews.

The hospital’s Bartlett Street Vaccine and Testing Clinic now offers second boosters of mRNA vaccines to adults age 50 or older, people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, or people who received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for their first shot and booster. People should talk to their health-care providers for advice on if and when they should get the second booster. For full information on eligibility and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, visit www.sphosp.org. Vaccines and second boosters are offered Sundays and Mondays, and appointments are encouraged but not required.

Because the BA2 variant is becoming more common, SPH now offers the Bebtelovimab monoclonal antibody infusion, the only MAB available under an emergency use authorization. Supplies of Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment, are now available in Homer.

For the latest report on April 1 for March 30-31, the state reported 517 new resident COVID-19 cases and 11 nonresident cases.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/community-levels.html#anchor_82254 shows the risk levels by county using metrics like numbers of people hospitalized and staffing levels. According to that link, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has dropped to the low-risk or green category. At this level, CDC recommends people stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if they have symptoms. People may choose to wear facemasks at any time, and people with symptoms, a positive test or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.

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, March 31 to April 5:

Alert level: Substantial (KPB)

New total tests: 339 (tested through South Peninsula Hospital)

New positive tests: 26

Test positivity rate: 8%

New COVID-related Emergency Room visits: 4

New COVID hospitalizations: 1

Monoclonal antibody infusions: 2

Vaccinations: 144

Southern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, March 25-31): 100 per 100,000 or 14 actual; substantial alert level

Central Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, March 25-31): 105 per 100,000 or 39 actual; high alert level

Eastern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, March 25-31): 450 per 100,000 or 23 actual; high alert level

New peninsula deaths: 0

Cumulative deaths: 25 residents (11 in Homer, 10 in Anchor Point, four in Kenai Peninsula South)

Vaccination information: 76.4% of Homer’s population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 71.4% of eligible residents have completed a full vaccination series. In Anchor Point, 51.7% have received a first dose and 47.8% are fully vaccinated. In the other Kenai Peninsula south, 25.5% have received a first dose and 23.3% are fully vaccinated.

School cases: Chapman School, 9; Fireweed Academy, 0; Homer Flex School, 0; Homer High School, 2; Homer Middle School, 12; McNeil Canyon, 0; Paul Banks Elementary, 0; West Homer Elementary, 0; small communities (census regions less than 1,000), 0.

State numbers, April 1

Alert level: High, 182.3 per 100,000

New cases: 517 residents, 11 nonresidents

Kenai Peninsula cases (March 25-31: Homer, 5; Kenai, 8; Soldotna, 20; Seward, 23; Anchor Point, 2; Nikiski, 1; Kenai Peninsula South, 7; Kenai Peninsula North, 5; Sterling, 5; Fritz Creek, 0.

Cumulative cases: 239,750 residents and 7,989 nonresidents

Total hospitalizations: 3,741 (no new hospitalizations)

Current hospitalizations: 36 confirmed positive, 3 under investigation

Patients on ventilators: 1

Hospitalization rate: 2.5%

State cumulative deaths: 1,195 residents, 33 nonresidents

Vaccination information: 64.8% of Alaska’s eligible population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 59.5% 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 at its Bartlett Street site. Testing is for people with symptoms, traveling, for pre-procedure screening and for exposure six days after exposure of after being at social gatherings. Test results can be accessed on the SPH patient portal within 24 hours.

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.

Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be given 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays and Mondays.

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 Monday-Friday by appointment or walk-ins. Call 226-1060 for appointments. The Moderna vaccine is available Monday-Friday by walk-in or appointment. The Pfizer vaccine is available daily for ages 12 and older by walk-in or appointment.

Ninilchik Clinic, 15765 Kingsley Road, Ninilchik offers Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment. Call 907-567-3970.

SVT Health & Wellness offers Moderna and Pfizer by appointment 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.