Most regions in Alaska were at “high” COVID-19 risk level on Thursday. (Screenshot via DHSS)

Most regions in Alaska were at “high” COVID-19 risk level on Thursday. (Screenshot via DHSS)

Hospital opens overflow unit as COVID inpatients reach 24

The state reported 730 new COVID-19 new cases on Thursday

Central Peninsula Hospital opened its overflow unit on Thursday to accommodate the number of COVID-19 inpatients it was treating. The unit was treating four COVID patients according to CPH External Affairs Director Bruce Richards. The entire hospital — including overflow space — was treating 24 COVID-positive inpatients on Thursday, with two more in the emergency department with orders to be admitted.

That change came as the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 730 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Thursday, including 701 residents and 29 nonresidents. Eighty-eight resident cases were reported on the Kenai Peninsula on Thursday, including 35 in Homer, 16 in Soldotna, nine in Kenai, seven in Seward, six in Nikiski, five in Sterling, four in ‘Other North,’ three in Anchor Point and three in ‘Other South.’ That’s in addition to one nonresident case in Homer, one in Kenai, one in Kenai Peninsula Borough North and one in Soldotna.

DHSS reported no new COVID deaths and 16 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, bringing statewide totals to 427 and 128, respectively.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough continues to lag behind most other regions in the state for the percentage of residents 12 and older who are fully vaccinated, with that rate hovering around 46%, as of Wednesday. The only region with a lower vaccination rate is Matanuska-Susitna at 38%.

COVID-19 vaccines have been lauded by national, state and local health officials as both safe and effective. Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of more than 90%, received full FDA approval for use in people 16 and older on Monday. That vaccine, now marketed as Comirnaty, is still available for people between the ages of 12 and 15 under an emergency use authorization.

That is in addition to the Moderna vaccine and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, which are available to anyone 18 and older for emergency use.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money and 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 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. Starting Aug. 17, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 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 Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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