COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Cases down, but officials urge vaccination against omicron

The state reported an average of 159.1 cases per 100,000 people across the state cumulatively over the past seven days.

The state Department of Health and Social Services announced 428 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend.

COVID cases and hospitalizations have been trending downward statewide, but Alaska remained at a high COVID transmission alert level Monday — with an estimated rolling average of 159.1 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

That’s down from last Monday’s average of 175.3 cases per 100,000.

The new case count included 10 each in Homer and Soldotna, four in Kenai, three in Sterling, two in both Anchor Point and Seward, and one in the Kenai Peninsula Borough North.

Statewide there were 70 COVID-related hospitalizations as of Monday, with 11 of those patients on ventilators.

Health officials widely agree that vaccination is the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID, especially as the new omicron variant, first sequenced in South Africa, has already been detected in Alaska.

The Associated Press reported Monday that omicron had already accounted for 73% of new COVID infections last week, just approximately a month after the strain was labeled a variant concern by the World Health Organization.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, omicron is likely to be more transmissible, but it’s unclear how severe the variant is.

One piece of guidance remains constant from the CDC: People need to get fully vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible.

As of Monday, 60.1% of Alaskans 5 and older were fully vaccinated, and another 67.2% had received at least one dose. The Kenai Peninsula Borough is further behind in its vaccination efforts, with 47.4% of people 5 and older fully vaccinated and 51.3% with at least one shot as of Monday.

Pfizer 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 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, although the Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it was revising its fact sheet for the J&J shot to include more data on the risks of blood clotting associated with the vaccine.

Getting a COVID vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

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 at 417 First Avenue is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays only, starting Nov. 16. Bring a face covering and photo ID.

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 Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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