Central Peninsula Hospital as seen March 26, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Peninsula Hospital as seen March 26, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Half of beds at Central Peninsula Hospital occupied by COVID patients Monday

CPH has 49 regularly licensed beds.

More than half of the patients at Central Peninsula Hospital Monday were COVID-19 positive — an increase in the number of COVID inpatients in recent weeks.

Bruce Richards, the hospital’s external affairs director, said the facility is still busy.

“Over 50% of our capacity for licensed beds is COVID, so that’s half your hospital,” he said Monday.

CPH has 49 regularly licensed beds.

There were 25 COVID hospitalizations at the facility Monday, with five of them in the intensive care unit and three on ventilators. In addition, there were 30 non-COVID patients, putting the hospital at 112% capacity and forcing the staff to open overflow space.

Last month, Richards said, the hospital averaged 18 COVID patients daily. The highest number of COVID inpatients CPH has seen through the pandemic was 26 — only one more than on Monday morning.

In addition to COVID hospitalization, Richards said this month has already been more deadly at the hospital.

“We’ve had five (COVID) patients die in October already,” he said. “October’s not looking very promising.”

Through the entire month of September, Richards said, six patients died from COVID complications, matching only the December 2020 surge, in which six COVID patients also died in the span of one month.

“It’s very busy and there’s clearly a lot of community spread … and we’re seeing that at the hospital,” Richards said.

On Monday, the state reported that there were 2,792 COVID new cases over the weekend. The state also reported 196 statewide hospitalizations and four recent deaths — three Anchorage residents and a Northwest Arctic Borough man.

The new cases included 191 in Kenai, 83 in Soldotna, 25 in Homer, 21 in Sterling, 12 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough North, eight in Nikiski, four in the Kenai Peninsula Borough South, and two in both Anchor Point and Seward.

Richards said CPH is seeing proof of the high case rates in the hospital, resulting in a full facility with staff members already stretched pretty thin.

Of the 1,133 employees who work at the hospital and its adjoining facilities, which include Heritage Place assisted living facility and a clinic, Richards said 48 were quarantined on Monday, with 38 of them testing positive for COVID. The full staff has a vaccination rate of 65%.

State officials continue to urge Alaskans to get vaccinated against COVID in order to reduce their risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, now marketed as the Comirnaty, received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration for anyone 16 and older in August.

Pfizer is still available via emergency use authorization in accordance to FDA guidelines for kids 12 to 15 years old, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen shots have an EUA for anyone 18 and older.

Additionally, the FDA approved a third dose of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for emergency use in immunocompromised people in August.

And in September the FDA approved a booster dose for the Pfizer shot. They are available for anyone 65 years or older, anyone 18 and older living in long-term care facilities, anyone 18 and older with underlying health conditions and anyone 18 and older working in high-risk settings.

Primary care providers can determine eligibility for an initial vaccine series, as well as immunocompromised third shots and booster doses.

Across the state, 58.7% of everyone 12 and up was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday. Another 63.9% had received at least one shot.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s vaccination rate continues to lag behind many other regions.

As of Tuesday, 49.2% of people 12 and older were fully vaccinated and another 53% had received at least one dose. The only census area to have a lower vaccination rate as of Friday was the Matanuska-Susitna region, at 41.5%.

Full vaccination rates may be an overestimation as booster doses start to roll out, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.

Getting a COVID vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

As an incentive to get the shots, the DHSS and Alaska Chamber of Commerce launched a lottery program for newly vaccinated eligible residents that offers weekly winners a prize of at least $49,000. To find out the eligibility requirements or to enter into the giveaway sweepstakes, visit giveakashot.com. The lottery lasts through Oct. 30.

Many different organizations on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart and Walgreens and the Kenai Fire Department offer vaccines. They are also available for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

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.

COVID 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 and Capstone Clinic.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the 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. Starting Sept. 14, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

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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