COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Hospitalizations see uptick; COVID cases still declining

498 new COVID-19 cases were reported statewide

According to the Alaska COVID-19 Data Hub, updated Wednesday, 40 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. No patients are on ventilators. This is an increase from last week, when DOH reported that 31 patients were hospitalized. This is the first increase in hospitalizations reported by the state in roughly a month, following three straight weeks of declining numbers.

According to state data, as of Wednesday, one patient was hospitalized in the Gulf Coast region, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak and the Chugach census area. This is down from four, the number that has been reported for the last three weeks.

The state reported no new resident deaths from COVID-19 this week. Deaths are reported in batches, as they are confirmed by the state. Last week, the state reported 27 deaths, though it did not specify a time frame during which those deaths occurred.

Due to the widespread availability of at-home COVID testing, officials say hospitalization and recent death data is a more effective indicator of the spread of the virus than case counts.

In Homer, South Peninsula Hospital reports zero hospitalizations and one emergency room visit related to COVID-19. The hospital processed 131 test swabs in the last week, of which six returned positive. They also administered 109 vaccines. Vaccines are available at the hospital on Thursdays and Fridays by appointment.

For the period of Oct. 5 to Oct. 11, 498 new COVID-19 cases were reported statewide. All of the cases were Alaska residents, the state reported no new nonresident cases. Case counts are down from last week, when officials reported 554 new cases for the period of Sept. 28 to Oct. 4. This is the fourth consecutive week of declining case counts statewide.

For the most recent week, 34 cases were reported in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. This is up from 29 last week.

Officials recommend all eligible Alaskans be up to date on their COVID vaccines to minimize the infection’s impact on communities. At this point, anyone 6 months and older is eligible for a primary vaccination series and everyone 5 and up can receive a booster.

An updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine is available in Alaska. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that eligibility for the bivalent booster is expanding to include children 5 years of age and up, after previously having been restricted to 12 and older. These are designed to tackle both the original COVID-19 strain as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron.

This new booster is available to eligible individuals at least two months after their last shot, whether that was a booster dose or their primary vaccine series.

Boosters are recommended whether or not a person has already contracted the virus.

As of Wednesday, 68.2% of Alaskans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 28.2% have received the first booster. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, only 23.6% are up to date on their vaccine.

Officials recommend that Americans get either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and boosters. The FDA has said the Johnson & Johnson shot should only be given to adults who cannot receive a different vaccine or who specifically request it.

For more information on vaccine eligibility, visit https://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/epi/id/pages/covid-19/vaccineinfo.aspx.

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DOH’s COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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