COVID-19. (Image via CDC)

COVID-19. (Image via CDC)

2 more COVID deaths as cases rise

As of Tuesday, every census region in the state was categorized as high alert status.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced two new resident COVID-19 deaths Tuesday.

The residents who died were both in Anchorage — a female in her 70s and a male in his 60s.

There were also another 307 COVID cases reported, which included 46 on the Kenai Peninsula.

As of Tuesday, every census region in the state was categorized as high alert status.

The new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises all people — both vaccinated and unvaccinated — to wear masks in public areas where seven-day case averages supercede 50 per 100,000. In accordance to this guidance, people on the Kenai Peninsula are now advised to wear facial coverings in public.

The state’s vaccination rate hasn’t budged much in the recent weeks amid the new wave of COVID cases. As of Tuesday, the state reported 52.5% of Alaska residents 12 years and older were fully vaccinated against the virus. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 44.6% were fully vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, there were 100 COVID hospitalizations statewide, with 19 patients on ventilators.

According to Bruce Richards, the Central Peninsula Hospital’s external affairs director, there were a total of 10 COVID hospitalizations at CPH on Tuesday.

Medical personnel at CPH have been treating nearly as many COVID patients as they were at the worst of the pandemic last November.

He said in an email there were as many COVID patients — 16 — on July 29 as there were for their record-setting day in November for the most COVID hospitalizations in a single day.

Richards also confirmed via email that three COVID patients at CPH were on ventilators as of Tuesday.

Ventilators, otherwise known as life support, are oxygen-pumping machines connected to a patient through a tube placed down the windpipe.

Richards said it’s important to note that these machines don’t automatically help patients recover from the virus.

“They aren’t a magical cure,” he said. “This is the final option that we have as healthcare providers, and the survival rates in the setting of COVID-19 are very low when it reaches this point.”

Richards also said the COVID patients at CPH seem to have more severe illness now than they did earlier in the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 patients we have cared for in our Intensive Care Unit over the last several weeks are easily the sickest, highest acuity patients that we have ever cared for at our facility,” he said by email.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

Vaccines are available through the Kenai Fire Department by calling 907-283-8270, by walk-in every week at the Soldotna Wednesday Market, and for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Many different businesses on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart and Walgreens, 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 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.

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, Capstone Clinic and Central Peninsula Urgent Care.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Central Peninsula Hospital, 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.

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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