COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Alaska reports nearly 1,000 new COVID cases

Six cases of the omicron variant have been detected in Alaska.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 996 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Wednesday, representing data from Dec. 27 and 28.

Of the new cases reported Wednesday, 944 were reported among Alaska residents, including eight in Homer, eight in Kenai, three in Seward, two in Anchor Point and one each in Kenai Peninsula Borough North and Kenai Peninsula Borough South. That’s in addition to one nonresident case reported in Homer.

Six cases of the omicron variant have been detected in Alaska, according to DHSS’ Alaska Coronavirus Variants Dashboard.

“Layering on other protective measures, including masking, handwashing, physical distancing, and testing can also help to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus, including Omicron,” a Monday update says. “(DHSS) encourages Alaskans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they haven’t already done so and to get boosted if they’re eligible.”

The numbers come as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised quarantine guidelines for people infected with COVID-19 or who are identified as a close contact of someone infected with the virus. The CDC said Monday that people with COVID-19 should isolate for five days and, if asymptomatic, wear a mask when around others to minimize risk of transmission, citing data that show most transmission occurs “early in the course of illness.”

A five-day quarantine is also recommended for close contacts who are unvaccinated or who are more than six months out from completing their vaccine series and are not yet boosted. More quarantine guidance is available at cdc.gov.

DHSS announced last week that Alaska will no longer offer on-site COVID-19 testing at airports next year. Currently, testing is available at some Alaska airports for ticketed passengers. After Jan. 31, all airport testing will transition to “other testing resources within each community,” the department said.

The department also reported 2 new resident hospitalizations on Wednesday, bringing the total number of Alaskans hospitalized due to COVID-19 to 55, including three who were considered persons under investigation for the disease. Ten of the patients were on ventilators. Two new deaths among Alaska residents were also reported and include an Anchorage woman in her 50s and an Anchorage man in his 60s.

Health officials widely agree that vaccination is the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID.

As of Wednesday, 57.4% of Alaskans 5 and older were fully vaccinated, and another 62.7% had received at least one dose. The Kenai Peninsula Borough lags behind the statewide average, with 47.8% of people 5 and older fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 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 recommended for anyone 18 and older and six months out from their second dose. The J&J vaccine booster is recommended two months after the primary dose.

Many 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. The clinic has extended its hours to Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 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.

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. The Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays only. 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 ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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