Gov. Mike Dunleavy at an Anchorage news conference on Sept. 15, 2020. (Courtesy photo/Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy at an Anchorage news conference on Sept. 15, 2020. (Courtesy photo/Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Dunleavy encourages Alaskans to get vaccinated

Dunleavy emphasized that the vaccines had been developed as part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy in a Wednesday press release publicly encouraged Alaskans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In the release, the governor emphasized that the previous administration made an effort to develop effective COVID-19 vaccines before the transfer of power to President Joe Biden.

“Now, thanks to the efforts of President Trump and Operation Warp Speed, there is a safe, free, and widely available tool to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror,” Dunleavy said. “That tool is the vaccine.”

Dunleavy has worked with the Department of Health and Social Services since the spring to encourage Alaskans to make vaccine appointments so state businesses can reopen safely.

“Deciding to take the vaccine is a personal choice, and one the State of Alaska should and will respect,” Dunleavy said in the release. “There’s a lot of misinformation in the public, generated by the media and others. My request to Alaskans is to talk to their personal medical provider, and make the best choice for them and their families.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink was also quoted in the press release, stating that vaccines are the best shot Alaskans have at minimizing the risks of the virus. “Nothing is more effective in fighting this virus and getting us all back to normal than this game-changing tool,” she said. “Because this virus now spreads more easily from person to person, getting vaccinated not only helps to protect you, but it also helps protect others, such as our children who cannot yet get vaccinated, elders, or others who have weakened immune systems.”

Also in the release, Dunleavy emphasized the need for Alaska’s children to resume in-person classes.

“Children cannot afford to be out of the classroom another day,” Dunleavy said. “As a long-term teacher, and father to three students, I know children need to be with their peers in class to socialize and learn. There is no reason in-person learning cannot happen this school year, and happen safely.”

New cases

On Wednesday, DHSS reported two more COVID deaths — an Anchorage male in his 60s and an Anchorage male in his 70s.

There were 338 new positive cases as of Wednesday, which DHSS officials said are nearly all caused by the highly contagious delta variant. To date, there have been 429 delta cases statewide.

The new case count includes 43 on the Kenai Peninsula, which is the borough with the second-lowest vaccination rate in the state at about 44.6% for people 12 and older. Statewide, about 52.6% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough also is currently a COVID high risk zone, for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends everyone wear a facial covering in public indoors.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

Vaccines are available through the Kenai Fire Department by calling 907-283-8270, by walk-in every week at the Soldotna Wednesday Market, and for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Many different businesses on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart and Walgreens, offer vaccines.

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 Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 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 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.

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, Capstone Clinic and Central Peninsula Urgent Care.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Central Peninsula Hospital, 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.

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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