This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)

1 new COVID death pushes Alaska to 445

The state announced another 1,473 positive COVID cases over the weekend.

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported another recent COVID-19 death Monday — an Anchorage man in his 80s. That pushes the state’s COVID death toll to 445, contributing to the approximate 662,000 fatalities across the country since the pandemic began.

For context, losing 445 Alaskans to the virus is almost like losing the entire town of Cooper Landing over the course of a year and a half, which has a population of 478.

Additionally, the state announced another 1,473 positive COVID cases over the weekend as Alaska remained at a high alert level — estimating a seven-day rolling average of 567.6 cases per 100,000 people across the state.

The case count included 20 in both Kenai and Soldotna, 13 in Seward, nine in the Kenai Peninsula Borough North, six in Homer, and two each in the Kenai Peninsula Borough South, Nikiski and Sterling.

Statewide, there were 220 COVID-related hospitalizations as of Monday.

As of Friday, there were 18 patients — 16 unvaccinated — hospitalized at Central Peninsula Hospital for COVID, with five of them in the intensive care unit and one on a ventilator. The ICU at the hospital was full on Friday morning.

Health officials widely agree that choosing to get vaccinated is the single best tool there is to protect the people in each community.

The Pfizer-BioNTech, now marketed as Comirnaty vaccine, received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration last month for anyone 16 and older.

Pfizer is still available via emergency use authorization to kids 12 to 15 years old, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen shots have an EUA for anyone 18 and older.

Across the state, 56.5% of everyone 12 and up was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday. Another 61.8% had received at least one shot.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough continues to lag behind many places in the state.

As of Monday, 47.7% of people 12 and older were fully vaccinated and another 51.4% had received at least one dose. The only census area to have a lower vaccination rate was the Matanuska-Susitna region on Friday, where just 39.8% of the eligible population was fully vaccinated.

Getting a COVID vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

As an incentive to get the jab, the DHSS and Alaska Chamber of Commerce launched a lottery program for newly vaccinated eligible residents that offers weekly winners a prize of at least $49,000. To find out the eligibility requirements or to enter into the giveaway sweepstakes, visit giveakashot.com. The lottery lasts through Oct. 30.

Many different organizations on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart, Walgreens, and the Kenai Fire Department offer vaccines. They are also available for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Additionally, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy hosts a walk-in clinic in its strip mall storefront at the “Y” intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Vaccination appointments can also be scheduled through the online portal PrepMod, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.

People who would like assistance with scheduling a vaccination appointment can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The central peninsula call center can be reached at 907-262-4636. The Homer call center can be reached at 907-235-4636. The Seward call center can be reached at 907-224-4636.

COVID testing locations

Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.

In Kenai, testing is available at the Chignik Lagoon Clinic, Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy. Starting Sept. 14, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-through testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

In Homer, testing is available at South Peninsula Hospital, or through other area health care providers at Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness, Kachemak Medical Group and Homer Medical Center.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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