Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday that he believes the pandemic is “in the rearview mirror” and that the state can start “moving ahead” even as case rates continue to rise statewide.
Speaking at a press conference at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, Dunleavy also said he thinks the central peninsula will start to see an influx of tourists this summer.
“The word we’re getting is that there’s a lot of bookings happening here,” he said. “So that’s good news.”
The state of Alaska is currently considered to be at high-risk level, according Alaska Department of Health and Social Services metrics, with 22.31 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days.
That is compared to approximately 18 cases per 100,000 people two weeks ago. The Kenai Peninsula is also considered high risk, with 11.64 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days, according to state data.
The state announced 85 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, including five new cases on the peninsula. Affected peninsula communities include Kenai with two cases and Seward and Sterling with one case each. One nonresident positive COVID-19 case was reported in Homer and was still under investigation. Soldotna reported zero new cases on Tuesday. Altogether the central peninsula has reported 70 cases in the last 14 days. The eastern peninsula has reported 24 and the southern peninsula has reported four in that time.
Alaska also on Tuesday reported 24 new cases in Anchorage, 20 in Wasilla, 10 in the Bethel Census Area, five in Palmer, four in Valdez, three in Big Lake, three in North Pole, two in Eagle River, two in Fairbanks, and one each in the Copper River Census Area, Douglas, Girdwood, Houston, Juneau, and the Mat-Su Borough.
The state reported eight new hospitalizations and no new deaths among Alaska residents, bringing statewide totals to date to 1,378 and 309, respectively. Statewide, as of Tuesday, there were 37 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, and one more under investigation for COVID-related illness. Ten of the patients were on ventilators.
During his press conference Tuesday, Dunleavy said there would be no statewide mandate compelling Alaska residents to be vaccinated.
“We don’t need to mandate vaccines,” he said. “It’s one of those things. A pandemic comes along once every 100 years and there’s really no playbook for it. But Alaskans, I think, have stepped up to the plate tremendously. We wouldn’t have these numbers that we have … if it weren’t for Alaskans … being a voluntary part of this.”
Slightly over 30% of Alaskans 16 and older — 31.8% — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 42.4% have received at least one dose, according to state data updated on Tuesday. That’s compared to an estimated 65.8% of Alaskans 65 and older who are fully vaccinated and 72.8% who have received at least one dose.
In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 27.2% of Alaskans 16 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 36.3% have received at least one dose. More than half of peninsula seniors — 56.6% — are fully vaccinated. Across all age groups, over one-fifth — 21.7% — of peninsula residents are fully vaccinated.
According to NPR on Tuesday, Alaska is third nationwide in vaccine rollout, as 24.5% of the state’s total population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Alaska trails New Mexico — 26.2% — and South Dakota — 25%.
More than 250 COVID-19 vaccination appointments were available across multiple central peninsula clinics as of Tuesday at 6 p.m., according to PrepMod, the online portal through which appointments can be scheduled. PrepMod can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.
Locations for the clinics include the Nikiski Senior Center, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Fred Meyer Pharmacy, Nikiski Fire Department, and the Kenai Fire Department.
A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov. Many providers are using the state’s program to schedule appointments, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov. Instructions on how to schedule an appointment through alternative entities can be found on the map by clicking the icon of the preferred provider. Appointments at Walmart can be scheduled at walmart.com/covidvaccine.
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.
The City of Kenai is offering transportation to and from vaccine clinics located in Kenai in partnership with CARTS and Alaska Cab. Rides will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis until the budgeted funds run out. In order to participate in the program, people must be going from an address located in Kenai to a clinic in Kenai and will need to provide proof of vaccination.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at firstname.lastname@example.org.