COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Cases dropping but state still in the red zone

The DHSS reported on Friday 870 new COVID cases across the state.

COVID-19 cases are dropping in Alaska, officials said during a press briefing on Thursday, but transmission risk level remains high.

“It has been really … relieving to see a slight decrease in our percent positivity as well as the number of hospitalized patients secondary to COVID-19,” Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said Thursday. “We’re still in that high zone … but it’s a much better trend than what we’ve been seeing in the past.”

The rolling average of newly reported COVID cases is a cumulative figure that estimates how many statewide cases were reported over the past seven days per 100,000 people.

According to the Department of Health and Social Services Friday, the seven-day rolling average was 572.8 per 100,000. Two weeks prior it was 744.7.

Even though cases are trending downward, Friday’s seven-day cumulative average had surpassed the high risk threshold more than five times. The state deems any number above 100 cases per 100,000 high risk.

On Friday, the DHSS reported 870 new COVID cases across the state.

The case count included 19 in Soldotna, 10 in Kenai, seven in Homer, four in the Kenai Peninsula Borough North, two each in Anchor Point and Sterling, and one in both Nikiski and Seward.

There was also a new virus death reported, an Anchorage man in his 70s, pushing the total number of Alaska COVID fatalities to 714 since the pandemic began.

Zink said that even as cases trend down, deaths and hospitalizations are lagging indicators.

“Remember deaths lag, and unfortunately, we’re still just seeing many people be impacted,” she said. “It was pretty humbling … to see that the U.S. as a whole has reached a quarter of a million people who have died secondary to COVID-19 — (it’s) just a lot of people and always makes me pause.”

There were 170 COVID-related hospitalizations across Alaska as of Thursday, with 25 patients on ventilators.

At Central Peninsula Hospital there were 19 COVID patients on Thursday morning — 18 of them unvaccinated — with five in the intensive care unit and two on ventilators. The hospital as a whole was operating at 127% capacity.

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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 on Nov. 2, giving eligibility to another 28 million people in the U.S.

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 and additional doses are also available for certain high-risk populations. Anyone who received the single-shot J&J vaccine is recommended to get a booster of any brand.

Getting a COVID vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

Many different 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 hours have been extended from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

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 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.

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 and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

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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