The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 620 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Wednesday, including 573 residents and 47 nonresidents. Fifty-eight resident cases were reported on the Kenai Peninsula on Wednesday, including 17 in Homer, 14 in Kenai, nine in Soldotna, five in Anchor Point, five in Nikiski, three in Seward, two in Sterling and one in Fritz Creek. That’s in addition to two nonresident cases reported in Kenai.
DHSS also reported eight COVID deaths among Alaska residents and three among nonresidents — all identified through death certificate review. They include a Soldotna man in his 40s and a nonresident woman in her 70s who died in Soldotna.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough continues to lag behind most other regions in the state for the percentage of residents 12 and older who are fully vaccinated, with that rate hovering around 45.9%, as of Wednesday. The only region with a lower vaccination rate is Matanuska-Susitna at 38%.
COVID-19 vaccines have been lauded by national, state and local health officials as both safe and effective. Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of more than 90%, received full FDA approval for use in people 16 and older on Monday. That vaccine, now marketed as Comirnaty, is still available for people between the ages of 12 and 15 under an emergency use authorization.
That is in addition to the Moderna vaccine and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, which are available to anyone 18 and older for emergency use.
DHSS will join the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District for a COVID-19 School Health ECHO Thursday night to talk about the safe return of students to schools. KPBSD parents are encouraged to attend and seek answers to questions they may have. The event will be held remotely on Facebook and on Zoom from 5-6 p.m.
“Experts from the Division of Public Health will provide information on the status of COVID-19 in the local area, clarify the most up-to-date evidence-based guidance (given the Delta variant) on prevention strategies for schools designed to support keeping students in school, and be there to answer parent questions,” a press release announcing the even said.
Getting a vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money and 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 4-8 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 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.
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. Starting Aug. 17, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 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 Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.