DHSS: 519 new cases, 1 new death

Affected peninsula communities include Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, Nikiski, Sterling and Other North

A microscopic look of the COVID virus. Photo: CDC

A microscopic look of the COVID virus. Photo: CDC

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 519 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Tuesday, including 58 on the Kenai Peninsula. Affected peninsula communities include Kenai with 23 cases, Soldotna with 20 cases, Homer with five cases, Nikiski with four cases, Sterling with four cases and Other North with two cases.

The new cases bring Alaska’s statewide case total to 33,091, including 31,834 residents and 1,257 nonresidents.

Over the past week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has conducted 1,299 tests and saw a positivity rate of 10.01%. The current statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the last two weeks, is high. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s alert level is higher at 102.43.

Central Peninsula Hospital has conducted 9,317 COVID-19 tests with 8,696 negative, 551 positive and 66 pending results. As of Tuesday, CPH was treating eight patients who were COVID-19 positive, including one who was on a ventilator. Additionally, there were 15 residents at CPH’s Heritage Place Skilled Nursing facility who were COVID-19 positive and 33 of CPH’s total staff of around 1,000 who were in quarantine.

The state also reported 24 new hospitalizations and one new death. To date, 734 Alaska residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 121 have died. Currently, there are 155 people hospitalized in Alaska who are COVID-19 positive or who are considered persons under investigation for the disease. Twenty one of the patients are on ventilators. The person who died was an Anchorage woman in her 70s.

Alaska’s daily positivity rate for the past seven days, during which 22,131 tests were conducted, is 6.09%. To date, 1,018,628 tests have been conducted in Alaska.

In addition to the 58 cases on the peninsula, the state also reported 165 cases in Anchorage, 157 in Wasilla, 35 in Palmer, 16 in Bethel, 12 in Fairbanks, 12 in Kodiak, eight in Eagle River, eight in Utqiagvik, four in Chugiak, four in Delta Junction, four in Sitka, three in Bethel Census Area, three in Big Lake, three in Craig, three in Nome, two in Juneau, two in Kotzebue, two in Kusilvak Census Area, two in Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area and one each in Fairbanks North Star Borough, Girdwood, Haines, Ketchikan, Mat-Su Borough, Nome Census Area, North Pole, North Slope Borough, Skagway, Sutton-Alpine, Tok and Valdez-Cordova Census Area.

Four nonresident cases were also reported. Two were reported in Wasilla, one was reported in Anchorage and one was reported in Seward.

Schools update

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced last week that remote learning would be extended for central, southern and eastern peninsula schools through the end of the academic quarter on Dec. 18.

Pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students, who shifted to remote learning following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s statewide alert on Nov. 12, will be allowed to resume on-site learning on Dec. 2, with increased COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place.

After a Nov. 2 school board meeting that saw several parents, teachers and students voice their opposition to the repeated extension of remote learning, the district announced that they would be reviewing their SmartStart plan to determine how students could be brought back into school safely during high risk operations.

KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien said last month that any new reopening plans will be sent to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for review and then to the school board for approval and adoption.

In their Nov. 24 announcement, the district said that an update to the SmartStart plan will be presented to the Board of Education at their Dec. 7 meeting.

Risk levels

In determining whether to reopen a school to on-site learning, the district and their Medical Advisory Team analyze 14-day positive case counts, analyze the seven-day positivity trend, consult with medical providers and public health and review their school decision matrix. The district said their medical advisory team now includes a mental health professional.

Small district schools, which include Susan B. English School, Cooper Landing School, Hope School, Nanwalek School, Port Graham School and Tebughna School continue to be open for on-site learning and operate at low-risk level.

During 100% remote learning, Get-It and Go meals are free for all students and can be picked up daily at school.

Operational risk levels, case incidence rates and case numbers by community are updated daily on the district’s risk levels dashboard at covid19.kpbsd.org/dashboard.

Central Peninsula — High Risk

The central peninsula, or Kenai, Nikiski, Soldotna, Sterling and “other North,” had 53 resident cases reported by the state Tuesday for a total of 638 cases in the last 14 days.

The central peninsula is high risk when there are 52 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 51 to 26 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are 25 or fewer cases in the last 14 days. As of Tuesday, the central peninsula will need to lose 586 cases from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.

Central peninsula schools include Aurora Borealis Charter School, K-Beach Elementary, Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Sciences, Kenai Alternative School, Kenai Central High School, Kenai Middle School, Marathon School, Mountain View Elementary, Nikiski Middle-High School, Nikiski North Star Elementary, Redoubt Elementary, River City Academy, Skyview Middle School, Soldotna Elementary School, Soldotna High School, Soldotna Montessori Charter School, Sterling Elementary and Tustumena Elementary.

Southern Peninsula — High Risk

The southern peninsula, or Homer, Fritz Creek, Anchor Point and “other South,” had five resident cases reported by the state Tuesday for a total of 168 cases in the last 14 days.

The southern peninsula is at high risk when there are 20 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 19 to 10 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are nine cases or fewer in the last 14 days. As of Tuesday, the southern peninsula will need to lose 149 cases from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.

Southern peninsula schools include Chapman School, Fireweed Academy, Homer Flex School, Homer High School, Kachemak Selo School, McNeil Canyon Elementary, Nikolaevsk School, Ninilchik School, Paul Banks Elementary, Razdolna School, Voznesenka School and West Homer Elementary.

Eastern Peninsula — High Risk

The eastern peninsula, or Seward, had no resident cases reported by the state Tuesday for a total of 33 cases in the last 14 days.

The eastern peninsula is at high risk when there are eight or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are four to seven cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are three or fewer cases in the last 14 days. As of Tuesday, the eastern peninsula will need to lose 26 cases from its 14-day case count for schools to drop back into medium risk.

Eastern peninsula schools include Moose Pass School, Seward Elementary, Seward High School and Seward Middle School.

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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