Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Hospital capacity steady amid statewide omicron surge

On Monday, the facility was at about 80% capacity with “a handful” of COVID patients

A recent significant uptick in COVID-19 cases statewide — driven by the highly contagious omicron variant — hasn’t so far translated into a spike in hospitalizations at Central Peninsula Hospital, External Affairs Director Bruce Richards said Monday.

“The good news is that the hospital isn’t being overrun like it was during delta, so that’s helpful,” Richards said.

On Monday, the facility was at about 80% capacity with “a handful” of COVID patients, he said. The hospital doesn’t report the number of COVID inpatients if the total is under 11, in an effort to maintain anonymity.

Also on Monday, there were about 64 CPH staff members — across the hospital, clinic and skilled nursing center — who were in quarantine, with 50 of them positive for COVID. CPH employs 1,245 people, Richards said.

Even with some staff out, he said the hospital is fairing decently.

“Compared to the last wave, there’s still some that come in and get admitted (for COVID), but the majority of them are seen in the emergency department and released back home to take care of themselves,” Richards said.

Because many omicron cases have reportedly been less symptomatic, and because of the increasing availability of at-home COVID test kits, state officials with the Department of Health and Social Services are encouraging people to use hospitalizations and death metrics to determine the severity of the state’s COVID spread.

There were a total of 201 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Monday, with eight of those patients on ventilators. A week prior on Jan. 24, there were 160 COVID hospitalizations and six patients intubated.

The state reported a three-day combined total of 4,447 new cases sequenced over the weekend, representing new infections reported from Friday through Sunday. The average number of daily cases over the past week as of Monday was 2,105.6 per 100,000 people, which surpasses the threshold for high risk level over 20 times. This seven-day average figure estimates a daily case count proportionate to population by averaging the actual number of reported cases each day over the previous week.

New cases reported Monday included 86 in Soldotna, 85 in Seward, 81 in Kenai, 45 in Homer, 14 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough North, 13 in Anchor Point, 11 in Sterling, eight in the Kenai Peninsula Borough South, seven in Nikiski, and three in Fritz Creek.

Health experts widely agree getting vaccinated against COVID will help slow the spread and protect people from severe illness, hospitalization and death.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for everyone 5 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are approved for anyone 18 and older.

In addition to a primary series — two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine — experts are strongly encouraging booster shots to protect against omicron.

State health officials have said studies indicate that a person with their primary series is expected to be about 35% protected against omicron, but that protection jumps to around 75% with a booster dose.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending Pfizer boosters for anyone 12 and older at least five months after the primary series. Additionally, Moderna boosters are recommended for anyone 18 and older at least six months after a primary series.

Janssen boosters are approved for anyone 18 and older at least two months after initial vaccination, although the FDA announced it was revising its fact sheet for the Janssen shot to include more data on the risks of blood clotting associated with the vaccine.

According to the DHSS Facebook page, the state is recommending people with a primary Janssen vaccine to get either a Pfizer or Moderna booster for more robust protection.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

Many organizations on the central peninsula — including Walmart, Walgreens, the Kenai Fire Department and Kenai Public Health — 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. The clinic is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

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 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 Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic. At-home test kits are also available for free at Kenai Public Health.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional 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. In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, , Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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