Registered Nurse Cathy Davis (left) and Chief Nursing Officer Dawn Johnson (right) work at a table to get COVID-19 tests ready for the public Friday, May 29, 2020 at the Boat House Pavilion on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Registered Nurse Cathy Davis (left) and Chief Nursing Officer Dawn Johnson (right) work at a table to get COVID-19 tests ready for the public Friday, May 29, 2020 at the Boat House Pavilion on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Expanding testing available on southern peninsula

South Peninsula Hospital announced last week it would begin offering free, rapid COVID-19 testing.

Health care organizations on the southern Kenai Peninsula are taking part in the efforts to expand testing capabilities in Alaska. South Peninsula Hospital announced last week that it would begin offering free, rapid COVID-19 testing on the Homer Spit, and SVT Health & Wellness has announced two upcoming community testing days that mirror the work done in Seldovia in April.

South Peninsula Hospital originally offered free testing at the Boat House Pavilion on the Homer Spit through June 6 with few restrictions on who could request that testing. According to a Monday press release from the hospital, that testing will now be limited from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the following eligible people:

Those working in critical infrastructure or the fishing industry

Those who have recently returned from traveling out of state

Those who have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19

Those with any new onset of COVID-19 symptoms

And those who have a referral from a health care provider

The testing on the Spit has been extended through June 13, and will be available daily except for Wednesdays, according to the press release. Results should be available for those who get tested within 48 hours and will be made available on the hospital’s online patient portal.

No appointments are necessary for this testing, but hospital staff do ask people to bring their driver’s license or state identification card, email address, Social Security number, phone number and insurance card if they have medical insurance.

Drive-up testing for people with new onset symptoms of COVID-19 or a health care provider referral continues to be available at the main hospital entrance.

Those taking advantage of this testing are asked to call 907-235-0235 ahead of time to speak with a COVID-19 nurse.

SVT Health & Wellness, a collection of clinics owned and operated by Seldovia Village Tribe, conducted a free community testing day in Seldovia in late April that was open to asymptomatic people.

That testing effort revealed no cases of COVID-19 in roughly half the year-round population of the village across Kachemak Bay.

Since then, the SVT Health & Wellness clinic in Homer has reported one positive test result for a resident of the southern Kenai Peninsula. Other clinics are located in Seldovia and Anchor Point.

Now, the health center is expanding those efforts with a free community testing day in the village of Nikolaevsk. It is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Wednesday at the fire hall in Nikolaevsk.

SVT Health & Wellness staff will administer the tests, while South Peninsula Hospital will be contributing the actual testing swabs. This testing day is for anyone in the Nikolaevsk community and especially commercial fishermen, according to the flyer for the event.

Those who attend the testing event need to complete a registration form beforehand, which it located at https://svthw.org/covid19-info/. Once they arrive at the fire hall, participants should only approach the testing station when a staff member indicates that they should do so.

Participants are asked to wear face masks to the event.

No appointments are necessary and all tests will be send to the state laboratory in Anchorage for processing. According to Laurel Hilts, marketing and public relations director for Seldovia Village Tribe, a similar testing day is also scheduled for Wednesday, June 10 in Anchor Point. It will also be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be hosted at the Anchor Point Senior Citizens Center, Hilts said.

“We know that we have communities where people aren’t making their way down to Homer on a regular basis,” Hilts said of the push to increase testing on the lower peninsula.

Those who live out East End Road have to go through Homer to access most of their day-to-day necessities, Hilts said, but those in communities like Anchor Point or Nikolaevsk might not have as much ready access to the testing currently offered in Homer.

“Definitely with the uptick in cases on the Kenai Peninsula that were reported over these last several days, you know, the state of Alaska has really gone out to say ‘please be extra cautious and take precautions that you might have been taking a month ago.’ … We think this is one of those ways we can do this.”

Hilts said SVT Health & Wellness appreciates the fire hall in Nikolaevsk making its space available for the community testing event. It will provide an opportunity to get a snapshot of how COVID-19 is or isn’t affecting that community, like the clinic did in Seldovia.

If positive cases are identified in Nikolaevsk through this testing event, Hilts said it will better prepare people to handle the situation.

“Knowledge is power, and we (will) know how best to take care of ourselves and each other after that,” she said.

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