COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

State reports 4 new deaths, 66 new cases on Kenai Peninsula

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 493 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — 486 among Alaska residents and seven nonresident. Sixty-six of the new cases are on the Kenai Peninsula, but none among Homer residents.

Alaska passed the 20,000 mark earlier this week for total cumulative COVID-19 cases, and now has a total of 21,331 (1,124 of those are among nonresidents).

There were no new cases announced among residents from Homer, Anchor Point or Fritz Creek on Wednesday, but three new COVID-19 cases in the “Other South” category used by DHSS for communities on the southern peninsula with populations of less than 1,000. There have been 49 new cases of COVID-19 identified on the southern peninsula (from Ninilchik south) over the last 14 days.

Statewide, DHSS reported Wednesday that 6,511 Alaska residents are considered recovered from the illness so far, while 13,600 are still active cases. Of the nonresident cases, 649 are considered recovered and 475 are still active, according to data on the state’s coronavirus response hub website.

The state reported that there have been a cumulative total of 523 hospitalizations for COVID-19 so far — 10 of which were nonresidents being hospitalized.

The state announced four new deaths of Alaska residents tied to COVID-19 on Wednesday, for a total of 96 deaths. None of the deaths announced Wednesday were for residents of the Kenai Peninsula. However, a Kenai resident’s death was announced earlier this week.

Of the new cases reported Wednesday, there were 215 in Anchorage, 46 in Wasilla, 27 each in Soldotna and the Bethel Census Area, 21 in Kenai, 20 in Bethel, 18 in Palmer, 13 in Eagle River, 12 each in Juneau and Delta Junction, 11 in Utqiagvik, seven in Fairbanks, six in North Pole, five each in the Dillingham Census Area, Kodiak, Nikiski and the northern Kenai Peninsula, four in Big Lake, three each in the southern Kenai Peninsula, Sterling, the North Slope Borough, Kotzebue and Sitka, two in Seward, and one each in Chugiak, Girdwood, Valdez, Healy, Willow, Nome, Metlakatla, the Aleutians East Borough, Unalaska and the Kusilvak Census Area.

Of the new nonresident cases reported Wednesday, two are in Anchorage, one is in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, one is in Fairbanks, one is in the Northwest Arctic Borough, and two are in Juneau.

As of Wednesday, there were 101 people being actively hospitalized for COVID-19, along with 16 people being hospitalized for suspected cases, for a statewide hospitalization rate of 12.1%.

The 14-day average turnaround time for tests through the state laboratory is 2.3 days, according to the data hub. Alaska has performed 834,590 tests to date, for a seven-day average positivity rate of 8.45% as of Tuesday, according to the data.

Local hospital update

As cases rise statewide and on the peninsula, so do positive COVID-19 test results at South Peninsula Hospital. Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro told the Homer City Council during their Monday night meeting that the hospital has conducted 712 tests over the last two weeks, with 26 of those tests coming back positive.

That gives the hospital, as a testing site, a positivity rate of 3.6% over the last two weeks.

Ferraro reported that there have been a total of 207 positive COVID-19 cases on the southern peninsula since the pandemic began, and that 22% of them were identified within the last two weeks alone.

Ferraro noted that the hospital’s ability to perform rapid COVID-19 test in house with the rapid testing machine it got from the state is slowing down currently, due to fewer supplies being available.

“The supplies for that have really trickled to a very, just a real slow pace,” she said. “And as a result the majority of our testing samples are being sent to the state lab right now. That can change at any moment based on supplies showing up, and so that’s probably going to be the game that we’re going to play now over the coming weeks as the Lower 48 is just really ramping up testing and there’s greater competition for the supplies.”

The state announced on Oct. 28 that an order Alaska had made from Abbott Laboratories has been moved up, and the state will soon be getting 189 additional rapid test machines that it had ordered along with 186,000 tests. The state announced several new orders for supplies and equipment at the same time, but it was not immediately clear when they would arrive or how they would be distributed.

In other hospital news, Ferraro told the council that one staff member of the Long Term Care wing tested positive recently for COVID-19 and is still off work. All residents tested twice last week and again on Monday. No other staff or residents of Long Term Care have tested positive, Ferraro said.

South Peninsula Hospital had five total employees out of work as of Monday for being close contacts with known cases of COVID-19 or other reasons under the hospital’s safety protocols, Ferraro reported.

Testing locations 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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