COVID-19. (Courtesy the CDC)                                COVID-19. (Courtesy the CDC)

COVID-19. (Courtesy the CDC) COVID-19. (Courtesy the CDC)

Peninsula COVID-19 cases grow over weekend

Two more COVID-19 cases were reported Monday, bringing the total number of cases in Alaska to 370. This includes nine people who have died and 263 people who have recovered from the disease. One additional hospitalization was reported, bringing the cumulative number of hospitalizations to 37.

Both of the new COVID-19 cases announced Monday were from Anchorage; however, the peninsula has seen its tally of COVID-19 positive patients grow in recent days.

On Sunday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported a Homer person had tested positive for COVID-19. It was the third positive case for the lower Kenai Peninsula since Thursday. Previously, DHSS reported an Anchor Point man 80 or older and a woman aged 60-69 tested positive.

DHSS announced Sunday three new cases for Saturday, May 2: two from Anchorage and one from Homer.

According to a DHSS database, the latest Homer case is a man aged 60-69. How the man contracted the virus remains under investigation. In an email on Monday, Lorne Carroll, a Public Health Nurse and the Homer team leader, wrote that evidence collected so far shows a possible connection between two of the three recent lower peninsula cases.

“Given that the connection is not clear, it suggest that there is possible COVID-19 activity in the community that we’re not aware of, which is not a surprise,” he wrote.

Most COVID-19 cases are mild cases and people might not get tested or evaluated and thus notify Public Health, Carroll wrote.

“From today’s (May 4) perspective, this info further suggests that COVID-19 is circulating on SKP (southern Kenai Peninsula),” he wrote.

Carroll also wrote that one of the recent lower peninsula cases might have traveled north of the area, suggesting that patient either got infected on the lower peninsula or somewhere north.

The Anchor Point man was reported hospitalized in Friday’s update.

In an interview with the Homer News on Friday, the Homer woman, 64, said she is recovering at home. The woman said she had been self isolating since being furloughed from her job in mid-March, and that she had only gone out into the community to get groceries. The woman said she wore a mask and practiced social distancing, hand-washing and used sanitizers.

The three recent cases also are reflected in Monday’s totals for people tested at South Peninsula Hospital. As of May 4, of 353 tests, four people have tested positive through SPH. There have been 320 negative cases and there are 29 pending cases, according to SPH public information officer Derotha Ferraro.

According to a press release on Sunday from the Homer Unified Command, the latest positive Homer test was done on the hospital’s recently acquired rapid testing equipment, and is the hospital’s first case of positive results using this platform.

Alaska Public Health Nurses have interviewed the individual and are tracing contacts. They will reach out to any person who may have come into contact with them to offer instructions for preventing the spread of disease, including quarantine, isolation if sick and getting tested.

In his email, Carroll said that lists of contacts (being within 6 feet of another person for 10 minutes or longer) for the three recent lower peninsula cases are relatively short.

“Testing for COVID-19 is a critical component for preventing the spread in the community,” according to the press release. “It is offered at no charge at the hospital’s main entrance parking lot 24/7 to anyone experiencing any of the following symptoms: shortness of breath, fever, cough, fatigue, difficulty breathing, headache, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, nausea, rash, loss of sense of smell or taste, chills, body/muscle aches or increased phlegm production. Show up or call 235-0235 to speak to the COVID nurse for additional information on testing.”

The press release reiterated practices for reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus when in groups and public places, including using face covers, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and disinfecting commonly used surfaces.

On the Kenai Peninsula, the total case count now stands at 22, with 16 of those cases already recovered. The Kenai Peninsula cases are distributed throughout the following communities: two in Anchor Point, four in Homer, four in Kenai, three in Seward, six in Soldotna and three in Sterling. This includes a Homer resident who was tested and treated in Anchorage, and an Anchor Point resident who died while out of state.

For the latest data on the COVID-19 pandemic in Alaska, visit the state’s coronavirus response hub at https://coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com. Peninsula Clarion reporter Brian Mazurek contributed to this article. Reach him at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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