The number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths associated with COVID-19 were relatively consistent this week compared to the week before.
Since Sunday, Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services has reported 478 new cases of COVID-19 — 441 among residents and 36 nonresidents — with most of the cases occurring in Anchorage. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has only seen 11 resident cases in the past week. Overall this represents a slight increase from the previous week, when 434 cases were identified, but a significant decrease in the number of cases identified on the peninsula. Last week the peninsula saw 47 resident cases, which was enough to put central peninsula schools in the high-risk category for the start of school this week.
Seventeen additional Alaskans were hospitalized this week after testing positive for the disease, for a total of 214 hospitalizations since the state begin tracking the pandemic in March. As of Saturday, there were 41 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and another two patients under investigation for the disease. Seven of those hospitalized patients require treatment on a ventilator.
Hospitalization data is based on daily reports from 27 hospital facilities across Alaska that are sent voluntarily to the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association. For the month of August, there were only two days when all 27 facilities submitted data, according to the information available on Alaska’s Coronavirus Response Hub.
Corey Young, deputy press secretary for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said via email Friday that of those 27 facilities, 21 are considered “general acute care” or “critical access facilities” and reported information for 23 of the last 27 days in August. The other six are military and behavioral health hospitals and do not report consistently.
“It is also important to note that there is no mandate for hospitals to report to the state, so the information we get from them is voluntarily reported,” Young said.
The state also this week reported six additional deaths of Alaskans who had tested positive for COVID-19, including reported four on Tuesday. Due to the different avenues through which COVID-19 deaths are reported, either directly by hospital facilities or through the death certification process, deaths are not always reported in real time. The latest six deaths to be reported by DHSS occurred on Aug. 3, Aug. 6, two on Aug. 8, Aug. 15 and Aug. 16, according to the latest available data on the coronavirus response hub.
The state reported 451 recoveries from COVID-19 this week — a record number. This week is the first since Alaska began experiencing a surge of cases in July that the number of recoveries kept pace with the number of new cases.
A total of 18,255 COVID-19 tests were conducted this week, but fewer than 1,000 of those were conducted on the Kenai Peninsula. As of Aug. 22, only 858 additional tests had been conducted on the Kenai Peninsula, which had a regional seven-day positivity rate of .9%. The statewide positivity rate for the last week is 2.16%.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed their guidance on COVID-19 testing, stating that people who have been in close contact with confirmed cases but are asymptomatic do not need to get tested. Alaska’s DHSS is not changing its guidance and is still recommending testing for anyone in close contact with a confirmed case, according to a memo sent to health care providers Friday.
“We still recommend that asymptomatic people who were in close contact to an infected person get tested during their quarantine period,” DHSS Chief Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said in the email. “For people who were put into quarantine promptly after their exposure, we recommend testing during the second week of their 14-day quarantine period. However, for people who were exposed a week or more before they were put into quarantine, it would be appropriate to get tested right away. The main problem we want to avoid is asymptomatic people getting tested too early after their exposure to decrease the likelihood of a false-negative test for those who are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Testing locations on the Kenai Peninsula
On the central peninsula, testing is available at Capstone Family Clinic, K-Beach Medical, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Central Peninsula Urgent Care, Peninsula Community Health Services, Urgent Care of Soldotna, the Kenai Public Health Center and Odyssey Family Practice. Call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400 for information on testing criteria for each location.
In Homer, testing continues to be available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at South Peninsula Hospital’s main entrance as well as through SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228.
In Ninilchik, NTC Community Clinic is providing testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The testing is only for those traveling, symptomatic, needing testing for medical procedures, or with a known exposure after seven days. Only 20 tests will be offered per day. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.
In Seward, testing is available at Providence Seward, Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and North Star Health Clinic.
This article is based on data reported by state and local agencies between Aug. 23 and Aug. 29.
Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at firstname.lastname@example.org.