COVID-19. (Image via CDC)

COVID-19. (Image via CDC)

Borough positivity rate drops below 1%

Four new cases were reported on the peninsula, all in Seward

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 180 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Wednesday, including four cases on the Kenai Peninsula, all of which were reported in Seward. The new cases bring Alaska’s statewide total to 53,670, including 51,951 cases among residents and 1,719 among nonresidents.

The report comes just a day after DHSS announced the first case of a variant strain of COVID-19 in Alaska, which was detected in an Anchorage resident last month.

The specific strain was originally detected last September in the United Kingdom and is known as B.1.1.7. It is one of several COVID variants spreading worldwide, including one that originated in Brazil and is known as P.1 and another that originated in South Africa and is known as 1.351. According to the DHSS release, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had counted nearly 300 cases of the B.1.1.7 strain in 24 U.S. states.

DHSS also announced Tuesday that the state will receive 59,600 more initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for the month of February, including 18,500 doses allocated to the Indian Health Service (IHS).

In total, the state has been allocated 174,400 vaccine doses for the months of December, January and February. Of the 114,800 doses Alaska had already received as of Wednesday, 105,846 had been administered, though that number is expected to be higher due to a lag in reporting. According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, 5,394 people in the “Kenai Peninsula Region” had received the COVID-19 vaccine and 1,415 had already received both doses. As of Tuesday, 84,746 Alaskans had received at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, with 21,100 having already received both.

More vaccination appointments are expected to open statewide on Thursday at noon, officials said. Demand for COVID-19 vaccination appointments has been high on the peninsula and statewide. Large vaccination clinics offered last weekend saw the successful vaccination of hundreds of peninsula residents. The state also launched a vaccine scheduling hotline this week which can be accessed at 907-646-3322.

Along with vaccination rollout, COVID testing continues statewide and on the peninsula. Over the past week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough conducted 969 tests and saw a positivity rate of 0.83%. The borough has conducted 60,574 tests to date. Statewide, 25,861 COVID-19 tests were conducted over the past week, which saw a positivity rate of 2.87%. To date, 1,467,400 tests have been conducted in Alaska.

The current statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the last two weeks, is high. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s rate is also high at 10.77.

The state also reported six new hospitalizations and one new death among Alaska residents on Wednesday. DHSS began including “probable deaths” in the death and case counts on Jan. 4. To date, 1,176 Alaska residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 259 have died.

As of Wednesday, there were 49 people hospitalized in Alaska who were COVID-positive. Five of the patients were on ventilators.

In addition to the four new cases on the peninsula, the state also reported 53 cases in Anchorage, 22 in Wasilla, 19 in Bethel, 13 in Eagle River, 11 in Bethel Census Area, 11 in Palmer, two in Aleutians East Borough, two in Chugiak, two in Fairbanks, two in Juneau, two in Ketchikan, two in North Pole, two in North Slope Borough, two in Utqiagvik and one each in Big Lake, Delta Junction, Dillingham Census Area, Kodiak, Nome, Other Copper River, Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Tok and Valdez.

Ten new nonresident cases were also reported. Five were reported in Unalaska. Three were reported in Anchorage and two have locations still under investigation.

Who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine right now?

In determining who is able to get the COVID vaccine and when, the state considers recommendations from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Vaccine allocation is divided into three phases.

Those phases are divided into sub-phases. Those sub-phases are then divided further into tiers. Front-line health care workers, along with residents and staff of long-term care facilities were given first priority in Phase 1a, Tier 1.

Phase 1a, Tier 2 includes front-line EMS and Fire Service personnel frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients, community health aides/practitioners and health care workers providing vaccinations. Vaccinations for people in Phase 1a, Tiers 1 and 2 began on Dec. 15.

Phase 1a, Tier 3 includes workers in health care settings who are at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 and who are essential to the health care infrastructure who meet specific criteria outlined by the state. Vaccinations for people in Phase 1a, Tier 3 began on Jan. 4.

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, 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’s Specialty Clinic 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. 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 Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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