Data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services show that some regions of Alaska have dropped to "low" COVID alert level, while most others remain at "high" alert level, as of Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Screenshot)

1,773 new COVID cases reported, no new peninsula deaths

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services only reports new deaths on Wednesdays

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 22 new COVID-19 deaths as well as 1,773 new cases since Friday. The department announced earlier this month that it would only be announcing new COVID-19 deaths Wednesdays.

The new cases include 54 reported in Kenai, 41 in Soldotna, 34 in Homer, 11 in two Kenai Peninsula Borough North communities, 11 in Seward, six in Nikiski, four in Sterling, three in Fritz Creek, two in two Kenai Peninsula Borough South Communities and one in Anchor Point. That’s in addition to 24 new nonresident cases reported statewide that include one case in Seward and one case in Homer.

Health officials have consistently emphasized that vaccination is the best way to minimize the impacts of COVID in Alaska — both on an individual level and for the greater community.

As of Wednesday, 64.4% of Alaskans age 5 and older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That is compared to 59% of Alaskans age 5 and older who have been fully vaccinated.

The Kenai Peninsula continues to lag behind other areas of the state for the number of residents vaccinated. As of Wednesday, less than one half eligible peninsula residents — 48.9% — were fully vaccinated. The Matanuska-Susitna region is the only region with a lower rate, at 41.6%.

No new peninsula residents were included in the list of 22 COVID-19 deaths released Wednesday. The ages of the deceased ranged from a Bethel man, who was in his 30s, to Anchorage, Chugiak, Fairbanks and Palmer residents who were older than 80. As of Wednesday, there were 109 people hospitalized in Alaska due to COVID-19, including three who were considered persons under investigation.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for everyone 5 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are approved for anyone 18 and older.

Moderna’s vaccine also got fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for those 18 and older last month, and Pfizer’s vaccine got full FDA authorization for people 16 and older last August.

In addition to a primary series — two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine — experts are strongly encouraging booster shots to protect against omicron.

The FDA and CDC are recommending Pfizer boosters for anyone 12 and older at least five months after the primary series. Additionally, Moderna boosters are recommended for anyone 18 and older at least six months after a primary series.

Janssen boosters are approved for anyone 18 and older at least two months after initial vaccination, although state health officials say the Janssen shot isn’t the preferred vaccine because of risks of blood clotting and less robust protection against COVID. The state recommends people with a primary Janssen vaccine to get either a Pfizer or Moderna booster.

Many organizations on the central peninsula — including Walmart, Walgreens, the Kenai Fire Department and Kenai Public Health — offer vaccines.

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. The clinic is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

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 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.

Testing locations

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

In Kenai, testing is available at Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic. At-home test kits are also available for free at Kenai Public Health.

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

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. In addition, Capstone Clinic in Homer will be offering drive-thru tests Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday. Register with the COVID Secure App before arriving.

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.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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