Three Kenai women die of COVID-19

Omicron BA.2 variant on rise in Alaska.

Recent deaths reported by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services show that while the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be waning, Alaskans continue to die from the disease. Three of the deaths were Kenai Peninsula residents, two Kenai women age 80 or older and one Kenai woman in her 70s.

Last week DHSS reported 20 new Alaska deaths of COVID-19, according to last Wednesday’s March 23 release from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Five of those deaths were from March, 12 from February, one from January, one from December 2021 and one from August 2021.

The Alaska death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic now stands at 1,189 resident deaths. DHSS reports deaths every Wednesday following death certificate reviews.

Locally, the positivity rate of tests dropped slightly to 10% compared to 11% last week.

About 45% of the COVID-19 tests done in Feburary were of the omicron BA2 variant. At the pandemic report at Monday’s Homer City Council meeting, Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll said the BA2 variant is 30% more infectious than the omicron B1.1 variant.

“If you haven’t had COVID-19 in the past few weeks, your chance of getting COVID-19 remains high,” Carroll

At the council meeting, South Peninsula Hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro reported that staffing levels are fluctuating and services remain normal at the hospital. She said the hospital is still waiting for guidance on from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on who should get a second booster of the COVID-19 vaccine and plans to offer the vaccine. No mass vaccine clinics are planned, but SPH may offer more days to provide vaccines if demand increases.

“Please check to see if you qualify and to make your appointment,” Ferraro wrote in a follow-up email on Wednesday.

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

For the latest report on March 25 for March 23-24, the state reported 545 new resident COVID-19 cases and 14 nonresident cases.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at shows the risk levels by county using metrics like numbers of people hospitalized and staffing levels. According to that link, the Kenai Peninsula Borough remains in the medium-risk or yellow 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. People at high risk for severe illnes should talk to their healthcare provided about whether they need to wear a face mask and take other precautions.

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 23-30:

Alert level: High (DHSS)

New total tests: 431 (tested through South Peninsula Hospital)

New positive tests: 42

Test positivity rate: 10%

New COVID-related Emergency Room visits: 6

New COVID hospitalizations: 0

Monoclonal antibody infusions: 8

Vaccinations: 20

Southern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, March 23-30): 278 per 100,000 or 39 actual; high alert level

Central Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, March 23-30): 111 per 100,000 or 41 actual; high alert level

Eastern Kenai Peninsula cases (7-day rate, March 23-30): 763 per 100,000 or 39 actual; high alert level

New peninsula deaths: 3

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, 6; Fireweed Academy, 0; Homer Flex School, 0; Homer High School, 13; Homer Middle School, 2; McNeil Canyon, 0; Paul Banks Elementary, 1; West Homer Elementary, 0; small communities (census regions less than 1,000), 5.

State numbers, March 25

Alert level: High, 198.7 per 100,000

New cases: 545 residents, 14 nonresidents

Kenai Peninsula cases (March 23-30: Homer, 16; Kenai, 9; Soldotna, 23; Seward, 39; Anchor Point, 5; Nikiski, 1; Kenai Peninsula South, 14; Kenai Peninsula North, 4; Sterling, 4; Fritz Creek, 4.

Cumulative cases: 238,240 residents and 7.926 nonresidents

Total hospitalizations: 3,737 (four new hospitalizations)

Current hospitalizations: 35 confirmed positive

Patients on ventilators: 2

Hospitalization rate: 2.5%

State cumulative deaths: 1,189 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