COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19 week in review: Nearly 400 new cases reported

There were 78 new cases of the disease reported Saturday.

The state reported the death of an Alaskan with COVID-19 Saturday, bringing the total statewide deaths associated with the disease to 18. There were 78 new cases of the disease reported Saturday, bringing the weekly number of state-reported cases to 384 people. The state also reported its 13th hospitalization this week on Saturday. Altogether there have been 99 hospitalizations, with 26 people currently hospitalized, according to state data.

For the first time since the state began collecting data in March, there are more than 1,000 active COVID-19 cases identified among residents, according to data compiled from the Department of Health and Social Services.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said during a press conference Monday that an increase in cases was expected by state health officials due to the nature of the virus. He said that the state’s health care facilities are equipped to handle the ongoing influx of cases without the need for additional mandates or restrictions on businesses or individuals.

COVID-19: By the numbers

Since Monday, July 13, there have been 319 new resident cases and 65 nonresident cases identified across the state. The area with the most resident cases is the Anchorage municipality, which had 504 active cases among residents as of Saturday. The Kenai Peninsula Borough had 136 active cases. The Fairbanks North Star Borough had 196 cases reported and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough had 120.

Anchorage has also seen the highest concentration of nonresident cases. Most nonresident cases statewide have been identified as workers in the seafood industry.

The average percentage of daily positive tests for the previous three days is 1.59%. Statewide, 168,363 tests have been conducted.

Other developments

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District on Monday approved its Smart Start back-to-school plan that addresses COVID-19 mitigation measures for the upcoming school year.

The plan, which was approved unanimously at Monday night’s school board meeting, gives parents the option to have their students learn from home or in the classroom this year. Individual schools will have the ability to implement different mitigation practices depending on the concentration of new cases in their area.

More information on the Borough’s back-to-school plans can be found at kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

Also on Monday, the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward announced a major fundraising drive in an attempt to recoup some of the losses incurred from their temporary shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic and avoid a permanent shutdown this winter.

The SeaLife Center set a goal of raising $2 million by Sept. 30. In an interview on Tuesday, the SeaLife Center’s CEO Tara Riemer told the Clarion that the nonprofit had already reached a record number of new members in response to their announcement, with over 600 new memberships in just the first 24 hours. The City of Seward also voted at their city council meeting Monday night to give the SeaLife Center $500,000 for their fundraising efforts, as long as they can raise an additional $1.3 million from other sources.

To learn more about the SeaLife Center and how to become a member, visit Alaskasealife.org.

Local therapy clinic Kenai Kids Therapy temporarily closed its doors Monday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 the previous week. Owner Kathy Gardner told the Clarion Thursday that the staff member was not a therapist and did not have direct contact with any clients, but she and co-owner Lisa Reischach decided to close the office temporarily in the event that other employees tested positive.

The clinic will be closed to in-person appointments until July 27, but parents can still make an appointment for a telehealth visit by calling 907-260-7444.

On Wednesday, the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce held their first joint luncheon since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 20 chamber members and local elected officials, including Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Soldotna, and Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, gathered at the Kenai Visitor Center to listen to a presentation from OneAlaska co-chair Jill Schaefer.

On Thursday, the state reported that an employee at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute tested positive for COVID-19 and was subsequently quarantined. This was the first case that has been identified at API.

On Friday, the City of Soldotna launched two grant programs to provide financial relief to local businesses and nonprofits that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants of up to $15,000 for small businesses and up to $25,000 for nonprofits are available for entities that operate within city limits, and applications can be found on Soldotna.org/CARES.

Testing on the Kenai Peninsula

Testing for COVID-19 is available on the central peninsula 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 the Seward area, testing is available at Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and the Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic.

The NTC Community Clinic in Ninilchik is providing testing for COVID-19. The NTC Community Clinic is the Indian Health Service provider for the Ninilchik Tribe. The clinic is providing testing with a rapid testing machine to those with symptoms, travelers and asymptomatic people. There are currently no restrictions on who can get tested. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.

Other southern Kenai Peninsula testing sites are at South Peninsula Hospital and at SVT Health and Wellness Clinics in Anchor Point, Homer and Seldovia. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228. The testing hours at South Peninsula Hospital are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

For more information on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit covid19.alaska.gov or email covidquestions@alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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