The Alaska State Department of Health and Social Services announced three more COVID-19 deaths Thursday, pushing the total number of statewide deaths to 713 since the pandemic began.
The state reported 655 new cases and Alaska remained at a high COVID transmission alert level Thursday — with an estimated rolling average of 565.5 cases per 100,000 people across the state cumulatively over the past seven days.
The threshold for high alert level is 100 or more cases per 100,000 people in the span of one week. The state has surpassed that metric more than five times over.
Thursday’s new case count included 17 in Kenai, eight in Soldotna, four in both Homer and Seward, two each in the Kenai Peninsula Boroughs North and South and Nikiski, and one in both Fritz Creek and Sterling.
Statewide there were 176 COVID-related hospitalizations as of Thursday, with 23 of them on ventilators.
At Central Peninsula Hospital there were 19 COVID patients on Thursday morning — 18 of them unvaccinated — with five in the intensive care unit and two on ventilators. The hospital as a whole was operating at 127% capacity.
Health officials widely agree that vaccination is the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID. Alaska is still leading the country in daily cases per capita, according to the New York Times.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 Tuesday, giving eligibility to another 28 million people in the U.S.
Pfizer is approved for everyone 5 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are approved for anyone 18 and older.
Pfizer and Moderna boosters and additional doses are also available for certain high-risk populations. Anyone who received the single-shot J&J vaccine is recommended to get a booster of any brand.
Getting a COVID vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.
Many different organizations on the central peninsula, including Walmart, Walgreens, the Kenai Fire Department and Kenai Public Health, 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.