Signs on Saturday, March 28, 2020, at the main entrance to South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska, warn visitors not to enter until they have been met by hospital staff. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Signs on Saturday, March 28, 2020, at the main entrance to South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska, warn visitors not to enter until they have been met by hospital staff. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

2 new COVID-19 cases announced at South Peninsula Hospital

One case is from community transmission, the other still under investigation

The Homer area reported Thursday two new cases of COVID-19 — one of which was attributed to community transmission.

The cases, which were reported by the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory, were identified through testing at South Peninsula Hospital. The case attributed to community spread is the first Homer area case that has not been travel related.

Statewide, the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services announced no new COVID-19 cases for Wednesday.

According to a Thursday press release from the City of Homer’s unified command, one of the two Homer area cases is still under investigation. The other case involved community transmission, meaning it was contracted within the Homer area. This is the first community transmission case identified through South Peninsula Hospital. Both patients were tested “earlier this week” at the hospital.

Of the two patients, one is currently being hospitalized and one is in their home, according to the release.

“There is no information indicating these cases are related,” the release states.

It was not immediately clear if both cases are actually from Homer, or in other communities on the southern Kenai Peninsula. The South Peninsula Hospital service area includes areas of the peninsula from Ninilchik south. The Homer News has requested more information regarding these two new cases, including the dates they were tested, which communities they are located in and where the hospitalized patient is being treated. South Peninsula Hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro said there was no additional information at this time.

This makes five total cases attributed to residents of the southern Kenai Peninsula. Before now, Homer had only one case of a person within the community, and one case of a Homer resident who was treated and isolated in Anchorage. One Anchor Point man in his 30s died from the disease while out of state.

Nurses with Homer Public Health are conducting investigations into both of the new cases, and will notify anyone who had significant contact with either person. The nurses will provide instructions for quarantine, self isolation and getting tested if necessary.

“This reinforces the importance for all individuals to do their part to prevent the spread, especially as more businesses and services reopen their doors and we start spending more time together,” Homer Public Health nurse Lorne Carroll is quoted as saying in the press release. “The individual actions of each one of us are important to prevent, slow and disrupt the spread of the virus, both in our community and across Alaska. Alaskans proved over the last month that our individual behaviors can keep each other healthy and save lives. We must not lose sight of that.”

While South Peninsula Hospital has two new positive cases, DHSS reported the state had no new cases reported on Wednesday. The South Peninsula Hospital cases bring the state’s total number of cases to 357, but those will be included in tomorrow’s official count on the state’s COVID-19 website, coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com.

As of Thursday, the state reports that 252 Alaskans have recovered from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. There have been a total of 36 hospitalizations of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, but there are 19 people who are currently being hospitalized, according to state numbers. Those are people either with a confirmed case of the disease or who have not yet tested positive but are showing symptoms.

There have been no new deaths of Alaska residents associated with the disease. That total number is still nine.

As of Wednesday, the state has conducted 19,562 tests for COVID-19, according to the state website data.

The 357 cases are spread across 25 different communities in Alaska. In the Municipality of Anchorage, 159 cases have been identified in Anchorage, six in Chugiak, 11 in Eagle River and three in Girdwood. In the Fairbanks North Star Borough, 63 cases have been identified in Fairbanks, 17 in North Pole, and one in an unidentified community. In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, nine cases have been identified in Palmer and 12 in Wasilla. In the Southeast, Juneau has 27 cases, Ketchikan has 16, Petersburg has four, Craig has two and Sitka has one. Kodiak, Delta Junction, Nome, Bethel and the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area each have one case. Cases within communities with fewer than 1,000 people are included in the counts for their borough or census area.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough now has 21 positive cases, with one from Anchor Point, two from Homer, four from Kenai, three from Seward, six from Soldotna and three from Sterling. Sixteen out of the 19 cases on the peninsula have recovered. The two new cases announced Thursday have not yet been attributed to a specific community.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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