Omicron increasing in Alaska

The southern Kenai Peninsula saw a slight increase in positive cases over the last week. More tests showed the omicron variant has appeared in Alaska.

Four cases of the omicron variant have been detected in Alaska, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Alaska Coronavirus Variants Dashboard.

As COVID-19 continued to disrupt lives around the world, more than 1,000 flights were canceled over the holiday weekend due to staff shortages caused in part by COVID-19 illness and exacerbated by severe weather, the AssociatedPress reported.

DHSS announced last week that Alaska will no longer offer COVID-19 testing at airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau beginning Feb. 1, 2022. Currently, testing is available at some Alaska airports for ticketed passengers. After Jan. 31, 2022, all airport testing will transition to “other testing resources within each community,” the department said in an update.

In its clinical update for Dec. 23, DHSS cited a study from the Imperial College of London COVID-19 response team that the risk of reinfection with omicron was estimated to be 5.4 times greater than with delta. The study also found no evidence that omicron was less severe than delta, but noted hospitalization data is limited at this time. Before omicron, COVID-19 infection offered 85% protection against a second infection over six months. With omicron, that protection fell to 19%, according to the study. Vaccine efficacy after two doses ranged from 0 to 20%, but after a booster, increased to between 55 to 80%. The Imperial College study had not yet gone through peer review.

The clinical update also cited a report on an omicron outbreak in Oslo, Norway, that showed fully vaccinated people who got infected did not require hospitalization. At a holiday party on Nov. 26, of 110 attendees, 81 or 74% had positive COVID-19 PCR tests in the two weeks following. The attendees had mingled for 4.5 hours in a closed room. All were reported to be fully vaccinated. All but one of the cases reported at least three symptoms. None of the people infected required hospitalization.

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.

Locally, Homer showed an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 tests. South Peninsula Hospital had no hospitalizations last week, according to an email from SPH Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro.

Homer has the highest rate per 100,000 people on the Kenai Peninsula, at 186 cases per 100,000 compared to 140 cases per 100,000 for the central peninsula and 78 cases per 100,000 for the eastern peninsula.

Emergency room visits were up over the last week, with seven for last week compared to three the week before. Monoclonal antibody infusions also increased to 16, up from 10 the week before. With ER visits and infusions up, but no hospitalizations, that suggests cases are not as severe.

Southern Kenai Peninsula numbers, Dec. 22-28

Alert level: High

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

New positive tests: *

Test positivity rate: *

Cumulative cases: 2,317 residents

New Emergency Room visits: 7

New hospitalizations: 0

Monoclonal antibody infusions: 16

Vaccinations: *

SPH staff vaccination rate: *

Southern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Dec. 20-26): 236 per 100,000 or 33 actual; high alert level

Central Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Dec. 12-21): 113 per 100,000 or 42 actual; high alert level

Eastern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, Dec. 12-21): 59 per 100,000 or three actual; substantial alert level

New deaths: 0

Cumulative deaths: 20 residents (10 in Homer, eight in Anchor Point, two in Kenai Peninsula South)

Vaccination information: 74.4% of Homer’s population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 69.2% of eligible residents have completed a full vaccination series. In Anchor Point, 50.3% have received a first dose and 46.5% are fully vaccinated. In the other Kenai Peninsula south, 24.7% have received a first dose and 22.5% are fully vaccinated.

School cases: 0 (schools closed for winter break).

State numbers, Dec. 21-27

Alert level: High, 139.9 per 100,000 (Dec. 27)

New cases: 1,020 residents, 63 nonresidents

Kenai Peninsula cases: Homer, 22; Kenai, 10; Soldotna, 16; Seward, 3; Anchor Point, 10; Nikiski, 2; Kenai Peninsula South, 0; Kenai Peninsula North, 6; Sterling, 8.

Test positivity rate: 4.891% (Dec. 27)

Cumulative cases: 150,643 residents and 5.534 nonresidents

Total hospitalizations: 3,249

Current hospitalizations: 57, two under investigation; 45 new hospitalizations since Dec. 21.

Patients on ventilators: 14

Hospitalization rate: 6.7%

New deaths: 30

Cumulative deaths: 945 residents, 30 nonresidents

Vaccination information: 67.5% of Alaska’s eligible population has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 60.3% of eligible Alaskans have completed a full vaccination series.

* Information not available.

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 and 9 a.m.-noon New Year’s Eve; closed New Year’s Day.Home kits are avaiable 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 Peninsula Clarion report Ashlyn O’Hara contributed to this story.