The Soldotna Professional Pharmacy and Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management offered the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines at the walk-in clinic at Soldotna Prep School on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)

The Soldotna Professional Pharmacy and Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management offered the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines at the walk-in clinic at Soldotna Prep School on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)

Alaska COVID-19 cases reach lows not seen since last summer

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 45 new cases on Thursday.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the state have been trending downward since the middle of April, with this week reporting some of the lowest daily case counts since early last summer.

The State Department of Health and Social Services announced 45 new cases on Thursday. This week, daily cases have averaged around just 41 per day.

According to the New York Times COVID-19 database, the last time the seven-day average dipped to these levels was around the July 4 holiday last year.

In a press briefing on Thursday, State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said he was encouraged by the low case count.

“We think it’s low because so many people are getting vaccinated,” he said. “These trends are looking good.”

Thursday’s new case count included three in the central peninsula. Kenai reported two and Homer reported one.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough also remains in the intermediate alert division, reporting an average of 4.97 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. The Northwest region is the lowest risk of all 11 census regions, with an average of just 1.84 cases.

Alaska also saw nine new cases in Anchorage, eight in Ketchikan, five in Fairbanks, three in Wasilla, two each in Chugiak, Eagle River and Sitka, and one each in Bethel, Delta Junction, Hooper Bay, the Kusilvak Census Area, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Metlakatla, the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Tok and Unalaska.

McLaughlin said the models are indicating that the state will see a decrease in positive cases through the summer as Alaska prepares for its tourist season.

Among people getting their shots now is the newly eligible 12-and-older demographic approved for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said on Thursday that statewide around 16% of all 12- to 15-year-olds have received their first dose of Pfizer — more than 6,000 kids.

Coleman Cutchins, a clinical pharmacist with the state, said he expects the Moderna vaccine will follow suit and gain authorization for emergency use in the 12 to 15 age group in the next month or two.

“But I do encourage that Pfizer is readily available now,” he said.

Cutchins said Pfizer is currently running clinical trials of its vaccine in young children ages 3 to 11, which he estimates will gain approval sometime next September. He said Pfizer could also receive authorization for the use of its shot in babies 6 months to 3 years old next fall or winter.

As of Thursday, over half of Alaskans 12 and older — 52% — had received at least one vaccine dose, and 46% were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 40% of people 12 and up were fully vaccinated.

Out of 11 Alaska regions, the Kenai Peninsula Borough ranks No. 9 in vaccine rollout at 40%. The Juneau Region still leads the state with a 66% vaccination rate for those 12 and older, according to data updated on Thursday.

There have been 1,558 resident hospitalizations and 362 resident deaths since the pandemic began, with one new hospitalization and zero new deaths reported on Thursday. According to the DHSS, there are currently 20 COVID-related hospitalizations with three of the patients on ventilators.

Zink said on Thursday that over 98% of all COVID-related hospitalizations and 99% of COVID deaths were among unvaccinated people.

Getting vaccinated

Multiple vaccination appointments were available as of Tuesday according to PrepMod, the online portal through which appointments can be scheduled. PrepMod can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.

These clinics include the Kenai Public Health Center and the Nikiski Fire Department.

Vaccine appointments are also available through the Kenai Fire Department by calling 907-283-8270, and will be accessible weekly at the Soldotna Wednesday Market.

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov. Many providers are using the state’s program to schedule appointments, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov. Instructions on how to schedule an appointment through alternative entities can be found on the map by clicking the icon of the preferred provider. Appointments at Walmart can be scheduled at walmart.com/covidvaccine.

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.

The City of Kenai is offering transportation to and from vaccine clinics located in Kenai in partnership with CARTS and Alaska Cab. Rides will be offered on a first-come first-serve basis until the budgeted funds run out. In order to participate in the program, people must be going from an address located in Kenai to a clinic in Kenai and will need to provide proof of vaccination. To schedule a ride, Alaska Cab can be reached at 907-283-6000 and CARTS can be reached at 907-262-8900.

COVID-19 testing locations on the Kenai Peninsula

On the central peninsula, testing is available at Capstone Family Clinic, K-Beach Medical, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Central Peninsula Urgent Care, Peninsula Community Health Services, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Dena’ina Health Clinic, the Kenai Public Health Center and Odyssey Family Practice. Call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400 for information on testing criteria for each location.

In Homer, testing is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the lower level of South Peninsula Hospital as well as through SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228.

In Ninilchik, NTC Community Clinic is providing testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 4 p.m. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Seward, Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and North Star Health Clinic.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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