The Alaska State Department of Health and Social Services announced six more COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, pushing the statewide total to 708 since the pandemic began.
One of the recently reported deaths was a Kenai Peninsula woman in her 70s.
During a press briefing last week, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said Alaska has been at a plateau in COVID cases for weeks, although there are more hospitalizations and deaths reported every day.
“We continue to be at this frustrating high plateau of cases, and (we’re) really looking to help … to push these cases down as quickly as possible,” Zink said last week.
Alaska remained at a high alert level Tuesday — with an estimated rolling average of 574.6 cases per 100,000 people reported 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.
Wednesday’s new case count included 19 in Kenai, 17 in Soldotna, six in Homer, two in Anchor Point, and one each in Fritz Creek, the Kenai Peninsula Borough South and Sterling.
Zink said the quickest way to mitigate community spread is by making sure to wear a mask, be mindful of ventilation in indoor spaces and social distance. But the most robust tool, Zink said, is a vaccine.
“The best way for long-term to make this minimize COVID impact on you as an individual, your family or your community is for vaccination,” she said.
The 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.
Health officials widely agree that vaccination is the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID, especially as Alaska is still leading the country in daily cases per capita according to the New York Times.
Statewide there were 202 COVID-related hospitalizations as of Wednesday, with 27 of them on ventilators.
At Central Peninsula Hospital there were 22 COVID patients on Tuesday morning — 20 of them unvaccinated — with six in the intensive care unit and one on a ventilator. The hospital as a whole was operating at 122% capacity.
“Delta is different, delta is deadly (and) things are different now that we’ve got a lot of delta surging,” Zink said last week. “So the recommendations for things like masking and vaccination and boosters you continue to see, those evolve and change because we get more data.”
Getting a COVID vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.
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 email@example.com.