COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

State reports 226 new COVID-19 cases as vaccinations continue

Kenai Peninsula moves down to intermediate alert level

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 226 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Forty-eight of those are nonresidents — 15 of which are in the Aleutians East Borough, where the seafood industry is being hit with outbreaks of the virus.

Alaska has had a total of 54,820 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. There are 40 people currently being hospitalized for the virus, along with another two being hospitalized for suspected cases, according to state data.

A cumulative total of 1,182 Alaska residents and 31 nonresidents have been hospitalized over the course of the pandemic.

The state has identified 277 total Alaskans whose deaths were related to COVID-19, as well as two nonresidents who died while in the state. DHSS reported 17 new COVID-19-related deaths on Tuesday, which were not recent and were identified through the death certificate review process.

State health officials have described that process as routine and lengthy, with often a several-week delay between the death and when the state receives the death certificate for review.

One of the deaths announced Tuesday involved a Soldotna woman in her 60s. The rest were not residents of the Kena Peninsula.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alaska’s death rate is still relatively low compared to other states.

The Kenai Peninsula has moved down into the “intermediate” alert level in the system used by the state to monitor how high the rates of COVID-19 transmission are in any given region. The peninsula has had 58 cases over the last two weeks, for an average rate of 7.1 cases per 100,000 people. Regions are considered at high alert when they have a rate of 10 or more cases per 100,000. As of Wednesday, the peninsula was the only region in the intermediate alert level. The Southeast Region – Southern and Southeast Region – Northern are both in the low risk level.

Of the new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday, there were 45 in Anchorage, 32 in Wasilla, 24 in Palmer, 14 in Fairbanks, six in Eagle River, five each in Juneau, the Bethel Census Area and the Dillingham Census Area, four in Tok, three each in Kodiak, the Copper River region, North Pole, the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Ketchikan, and Sitka, two each in Seward, the Nome Census Area and Unalaska, and one each in Anchor Point, Homer, Nikiski, Soldotna, Valdez, the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Big Lake, Houston, Utqiagvik, Douglas, Petersburg, the Aleutians East Borough, Bethel and the Kusilvak Census Area.

Of the nonresident cases reported Wednesday, there were 23 in Anchorage, 15 in the Aleutians East Borough, one in Kodiak, one in he North Slope Borough and three unknown.

So far in Alaska, more than 98,200 people have received the first dose of the vaccine, and close to 31,700 have gotten their complete series, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. About 129,900 doses have been administered out of the state’s total allocation of 174,400 — 55,300 of that allocation makes up the portion from the Indian Health Service for Alaska Natives and Native Americans in the state.

Locally, South Peninsula Hospital has conducted a total of 17,576 COVID-19 tests, with 16,901 of those coming back negative and 186 pending, according to hospital data last updated on Monday. The hospital has identified a total of 489 cases since the start of the pandemic.

SVT Health & Wellness, which is owned and operated by Seldovia Village Tribe, has conducted a total of 990 tests through its clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Of those, 957 have been negative and one was pending, according to data updated on Jan. 31. The health center has identified a total of 32 positive COVID-19 cases — eight in Seldovia and 24 in the other communities it serves.

NTC Community Clinic in Ninilchik has conducted a total of 4,370 COVID-19 tests since the start of the pandemic, with 252 of those coming back positive, according to data updated on Monday.

Who can get vaccinated?

Those eligible to receive the vaccine in Alaska right now are residents age 65 or older, health care workers, and long-term care residents and staff. For more information on eligibility or making an appointment, visit the state’s vaccine website at dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/Vaccine.aspx.

Of the 59,600 additional vaccine doses Alaska is slated to get in February, South Peninsula Hospital expects to receive 500 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The hospital will hold a second mass vaccination clinic this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5-6 at Christian Community Church, as part of Homer’s Unified Command team.

The clinic is by appointment only and will not accept walk-ins. Appointments can be made online at www.sphosp.org, or over the phone at the city’s help line, 907-435-3188. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were still 112 appointments available, according to hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro.

Online booking ends Thursday at noon, Ferraro said. After that, people need to call 907-235-0235 between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to make an appointment.

If a person got on a wait list for the first vaccine clinic earlier this month, they still need to make a separate appointment for this clinic.

Those who got their first shot of the vaccine in January are already scheduled for their follow up shots later in February. They do not need to make an appointment for this clinic.

At this time, vaccines are not available through Homer Medical Center or the South Peninsula Hospital Family Care Clinic.

Ferraro said any doses that don’t get used during this weekend’s clinic will not be wasted, but will be used for other eligible people under the Phase 1a, tiers 1, 2 and 3, and Phase 1b. That includes home-bound seniors that are being visited by South Peninsula Hospital Home Health, Ferraro said, as well as patients preparing to be discharged from the hospital, health care workers who weren’t able to get a vaccine in one of the previous clinics, etc.

Doses not used up in this weekend’s clinic cannot be used for people outside of the tiers currently approved by the state.

Current patients of SVT Health & Wellness who have not already been contacted about the vaccine may call 907-226-2228 to get put on a waiting list. The clinic also welcomes new patients — a medical visit is required in order to establish care through SVT Health & Wellness.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has opened a volunteer call center to help those age 65 and older who are not able to navigate the online PrepMOD appointment registration process. The KPB Call Center will operate from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday. The following phone numbers can be used to contact the Call Center: Central peninsula, 907-262-4636; Homer, 907-235-4636; Seward, 907-224-4636.

Testing on the Kenai Peninsula:

Free COVID-19 tests are offered 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week at the lower level of the South Peninsula Hospital Specialty Clinic, at 4201 Bartlett Street, Homer. Please use the Danview Avenue access. Tests are for those who have had recent travel out of state, have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, have new onset of any symptom related to COVID-19, or have a provider referral. See the complete list of eligible individuals at www.sphosp.org or call the COVID information line at 235-0235. Please call and pre-register before coming if and when possible.

Testing is also available through the SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at 907-226-2228.

In Ninilchik, NTC Community Clinic is providing testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The testing is only for those traveling, symptomatic, needing testing for medical procedures, or with a known exposure after seven days. Only 20 tests will be offered per day. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.

On the central peninsula, testing is available at Capstone Family Clinic, K-Beach Medical, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Central Peninsula Urgent Care, Peninsula Community Health Services, Urgent Care of Soldotna, the Kenai Public Health Center and Odyssey Family Practice. Call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400 for information on testing criteria for each location.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Seward, Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and North Star Health Clinic.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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