Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum speaks in a Zoom meeting on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Screen capture)

CPH at capacity as cases rise statewide

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 563 new COVID-19 cases on Monday.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 563 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Monday, including 35 on the Kenai Peninsula. Affected peninsula communities include Soldotna with 12 cases, Homer with eight cases, Kenai with six cases, “other South” with four cases, “other North” with two cases, Seward with two cases and Sterling with one case.

This is the 11th day in a row that the state has reported a daily case increase of more than 450 and the fourth day in a row that the state has recorded a daily case increase of more than 550. The state broke a new record on Friday when 743 cases were reported.

Also on Monday, U.S. Rep Don Young, who announced last week that he tested positive for COVID-19, said that he was admitted to Providence Hospital for treatment and monitoring. Young said he was discharged and is recovering and working from home.

“There has been much speculation in the media on my current condition, and I want Alaskans to know that their Congressman is alive, feeling better, and on the road to recovery,” Young said.

On Monday, a new Public Health Disaster Emergency Declaration took effect after the expiration on Nov. 15 of a previous emergency declaration by Gov. Mike Dunleavy that had been extended by the Alaska Legislature. State officials on Monday held a Zoom press conference explaining some of the changes in the new disaster declaration. Many of them were procedural, such as now calling mandates “health orders.”

“We think the new terminology helps avoid some of the confusion,” said acting Attorney General Ed Sniffen in the press conference. “… It’s essentially still the same.”

Most of the changes in Dunleavy’s disaster declaration took effect Nov. 16, but one provision regarding testing and intrastate travel takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 21. In Section B of Health Order No. 8, people traveling from a community on the road system or the Alaska Marine Highway system to a community not on those systems, if a traveler is in a road or marine highway system less than 72 hours, testing is recommended within five days after their return to a rural village. Social distancing should be followed until a negative test is received.

If the traveler is in a road or marine highway system community for more than 72 hours, they are required to get COVID-19 testing within 72 hours before returning to a rural village and not travel until getting a negative test. If travel cannot be delayed, social distancing is required on their return. Five days after arrival at their final destination, the traveler also is required to get a COVID-19 test. In both cases if they do not get tests they’re required to quarantine for 14 days.

The disaster declaration follows an emergency alert pushed by the state last Friday that linked to a video message from Dunleavy urging Alaskans to get serious about precautions like wearing masks in public and maintaining 6 feet from people outside a household.

“If we can buy time for our critical workers, if we can keep our systems operational, we can avoid being forced to take further action,” Dunleavy said in his message. “But if we cannot reduce the spread of this virus, we reduce our future options for how to proceed.”

On Monday, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said he thinks the message is getting through.

“We have already seen positive feedback,” Crum said at the press conference. “We have seen enhanced behavior and have seen large, planned events canceled or postponed.”

Testing

Over the past week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough conducted 1,575 tests and saw a positivity rate of 11.05%.

Locally, Central Peninsula Hospital has conducted 8,387 tests with 7,837 negative, 390 positive and 154 pending results. CPH is treating 11 patients who are COVID-19 positive with none on ventilators. There are also five positive patients at Heritage Place Skilled Nursing facility.

According to CPH External Affairs Director Bruce Richards, the hospital was at capacity on Monday. Richards said that they have not needed to surge into any overflow space, but that there are plans in place should they need to do so.

South Peninsula Hospital has conducted 12,342 tests with 11,812 negative, 217 positive and 313 pending results.

The new cases bring Alaska’s statewide case total to 24,399, including 23,240 residents and 1,159 nonresidents. According to DHSS Coronavirus Response Hub, there are currently 17,136 active cases of COVID-19 in the state and 1,249 active cases in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

The statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the last two weeks, is high at 70.01. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s alert level is also high at 78.69.

High alert is defined as more than 10 cases per 100,000 people, intermediate risk is five to 10 cases per 100,000 people and low risk is fewer than five cases per 100,000 people.

The state also reported nine new hospitalizations and no new deaths. To date, 548 Alaska residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 32 on the peninsula. Ninety eight Alaskans have died, including five on the peninsula.

Currently, there are 150 people hospitalized in Alaska who are COVID-19 positive or who are considered persons under investigation for the disease. Fourteen of the patients are on ventilators.

Alaska’s daily positivity rate for the past seven days, during which 27,802 tests were conducted, is 8.31%. To date, 872,347 tests have been conducted in Alaska.

Statewide 6,516 Alaska residents have recovered from COVID-19, including 431 on the Kenai Peninsula.

In addition to the 35 cases reported on the peninsula Monday, the state also reported 351 cases in Anchorage, 39 in Bethel, 35 in Eagle River, 21 in Wasilla, 15 in Fairbanks, 11 in Bethel Census Area, eight in Delta Junction, eight in Juneau, six in Palmer, five in Chugiak, three in Nome, three in North Pole, two in Kotzebue, two in Kusilvak Census Area, two in Valdez-Cordova Census Area and one each in Chevak, Douglas, Girdwood, Hooper Bay, Kodiak, Kodiak Island Borough, Northwest Arctic Borough, Sitka, Sutton-Alpine and Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area.

Seven new nonresident cases were also reported. Two were reported in Anchorage, one was reported in Homer and three have locations still under investigation.

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. Homer News editor Michael Armstrong contributed to this story.

Reach him at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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