COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Anchorage Pioneer Home reports COVID cases

State reports 4 cases on peninsula

Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services reported 46 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The state also identified a small outbreak at the Anchorage Pioneer Home and released more details on the new travel protocols for nonresidents.

Only four of the new cases were identified on the Kenai Peninsula Thursday — two are Soldotna residents and two are nonresident seafood workers who were tested in Seward.

After the state had finalized its report for Thursday, the City of Seward announced that five additional cases had been identified by local health care facilities that day. City Clerk Brenda Ballou told the Clarion that it was still unknown if the cases are residents or nonresidents. Details on the cases will likely be included in the Friday report from DHSS.

DHSS also reported four new hospitalizations, for a total of 141 hospitalizations since the state began tracking the pandemic. Currently there are 34 people diagnosed with COVID-19 who are hospitalized. An additional eight people are hospitalized and are considered persons under investigation.

A total of 261,572 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted statewide. The average positivity rate of test results in the last seven days is 3.05%. This week the state began tracking positivity of test results as a seven-day average instead of a three-day average.

Locally, Central Peninsula Hospital has conducted a total of 3,505 tests, with 3,351 coming back negative, 64 coming back positive and 86 pending results.

Pioneer Home Outbreak

Three residents and one staff member at the Anchorage Pioneer Home are currently in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, according to a Thursday press release from DHSS.

The initial resident case was identified Wednesday afternoon, and the other cases were identified during testing of the remaining residents and staff. The three residents who tested positive live in the same neighborhood within the home and are separated from the other neighborhoods, according to the press release.

The positive cases are the first among elderly residents at any Alaska pioneers’ homes. In June, the first case associated with the pioneers’ homes was identified in an employee at the Fairbanks home.

In response to the outbreak, elders at the Anchorage Pioneer Home who tested positive have been placed into isolation and have dedicated staffing, DHSS said in the press release.

The release said that the employee who tested positive is isolating at home and all resident rooms in the affected neighborhood and all common areas will undergo a thorough sanitizing. All residents in the affected neighborhood and testing is underway for all remaining residents and staff. Food service, housekeeping, activities and maintenance schedules have been adjusted to ensure the least amount of traffic in and out of the affected neighborhood, according to the release.

The Anchorage Pioneer Home has been closed to visitors since March 17 of this year.

Stricter travel protocols for nonresidents

DHSS has released more details on the revised travel restrictions for nonresidents, which are set to go into effect Tuesday, Aug. 11.

The biggest change to the current travel mandates is that nonresidents will no longer be able to obtain a free COVID-19 test upon arrival in Alaska. Nonresidents will be required to get tested for COVID-19 prior to traveling to Alaska. Any nonresident traveler who arrives without proof of a negative result within 72 hours of arrival will be required to pay $250 per test at an airport testing site.

Residents will still have the option of receiving a free test upon arrival. Testing at airport sites will be expanded to allow Alaska residents to receive a test while traveling within the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between Alaska communities.

Both residents and nonresidents will also be required to fill out a three-question self-isolation plan on the Alaska Travel Portal detailing how they plan to isolate if they test positive for COVID-19 while in the state.

All travelers with negative test results must also practice strict social distancing for 14 days or until a negative test result is received at least seven days after arrival.

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, 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 continues to be available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at South Peninsula Hospital’s main entrance 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 Mondays, Wednesday and Friday. The testing is only for those traveling, symptomatic, needing testing for medical procedures, or with a known exposure after seven days. Only 20 tests will be offered per day. 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 Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com

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