Peninsula moves to ‘high’ alert level; state reports 1 new death

Kenai Peninsula Borough is averaging 10.04 cases per day per 100,000 people in the last two weeks.

COVID-19.

COVID-19.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough entered the highest alert level for community spread of COVID-19 on Thursday as the Department of Health and Social Services reported another 155 cases among residents and nonresidents in the state.

As of Thursday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough is averaging 10.04 cases per day per 100,000 people in the last two weeks, which is just over the threshold for the state’s “high alert” level of 10 cases per day per 100,000 people.

Alaska’s statewide alert level is high at 22.18 cases per day per 100,000, and there are five other regions besides the Kenai Peninsula that are in high alert: Fairbanks North Star Borough, Northwest Region, Anchorage Municipality, YK-Delta Region and Other Interior Region.

Only two of the cases reported in the state Thursday were nonresidents, whose location and purpose of visit are still under investigation. The other 153 cases are residents of 22 communities. Affected communities include Anchorage with 71 cases, Bethel Census Area with 16 cases, Fairbanks with 16 cases, Bethel with 10 cases, Wasilla with nine cases, Eagle River with five cases, North Pole with four cases, Juneau with three cases, two cases each in Chugiak, Ketchikan, Kotzebue, Northwest Arctic Borough and Utqiagvik, and one each in Kenai Peninsula North, Kenai Peninsula South, Nikiski, Palmer, Soldotna, Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Tok, Valdez-Cordova Census Area and Willow.

The state also reported that a Valdez woman in her 80s was the 65th Alaskan to die after contracting the disease.

There are currently 50 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the state, and another 10 hospitalized patients are under investigation for the disease, for a total of 60 COVID-related hospitalizations. Seven of those patients are on ventilators.

A total of 12,355 COVID-19 tests have been conducted statewide in the past seven days, and the average positivity of test results processed during that time is 4.84%. On the Kenai Peninsula, there have been 380 tests processed in the last seven days for a positivity rate of 4.5%.

Statewide, 5,439 people have recovered from COVID-19.

Thursday afternoon, the Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a press release saying that Health Mandate 10, which applies to interstate and international travel, had been updated. The changes to Mandate 10 include the following, according to the Governor’s Office:

■ Travelers must complete strict social distancing for five days after arrival to the state.

■ A second COVID-19 test is recommended five to 14 days after arrival.

■ Residents who leave Alaska for less than 72 hours do not need to quarantine or test, but should self-monitor for symptoms.

■ Critical infrastructure workers traveling for any reason should follow the protocols for Critical Infrastructure.

Risk levels

Risk levels are one of the major tools the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District uses to determine the status of schools.

KPBSD also uses input from seven-day averages of positive cases, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Learning, and the COVID-19 Community Risk Level Medical Advisory Group.

DHSS created risk levels as part of a plan to reopen long-term care facilities to visitors, but DHSS says risk levels also can be used to inform decisions by other entities, including schools, institutions of higher learning and businesses.

The Alaska School Activities Association has game and practice guidelines for schools to consider when writing mitigation plans for any risk level.

With proper mitigation plans, the district allows practices to take place at any risk level. The district allows competitions to take place at medium- and low-risk levels. Competitions are not allowed at high-risk levels, with exceptions for season- and state-culminating events.

Central Peninsula — High Risk: The central peninsula, or Kenai, Nikiski, Soldotna, Sterling and “other North,” had three resident cases reported by the state Thursday for a total of 60 cases in the last 14 days.

The central peninsula is high risk when there are 52 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 51 to 26 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are 25 or fewer cases in the last 14 days.

According to the district’s Smart Start plan, at high risk, buildings are closed to students and learning is 100% remote. As of Oct. 14, the central peninsula is in 100% remote learning.

Southern Peninsula — Medium Risk: The southern peninsula, or Homer, Fritz Creek, Anchor Point and “other South,” had one resident case reported by the state Thursday for a total of 13 cases in the last 14 days.

The southern peninsula is at high risk when there are 20 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 19 to 10 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are nine cases or fewer in the last 14 days.

According to the district’s Smart Start plan, at medium risk, “Buildings are open with possible social (physical) distancing protocols in place. Parents may select for students to learn remotely.”

Eastern Peninsula — High Risk: The eastern peninsula, or Seward, had no resident cases reported by the state Thursday, for a total of 10 cases in the last 14 days.

The eastern peninsula is at high risk when there are eight or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are four to seven cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are three or fewer cases in the last 14 days.

According to the district’s Smart Start plan, at high risk, buildings are closed to students and learning is 100% remote. Moose Pass Elementary, Seward Elementary, Seward Middle and Seward High School will continue remote learning through Oct. 23, and an evaluation about returning to on-site learning will be made on Oct. 22.

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 is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the lower level of South Peninsula Hospital’s Specialty Clinic 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.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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