A kit used to collect samples that are tested for COVID-19 is seen at Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, Alaska, on April 7, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A kit used to collect samples that are tested for COVID-19 is seen at Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, Alaska, on April 7, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula receives federal aid to tackle COVID-19 pandemic

Several local organizations are receiving financial help and resources to boost area public health capabilities and increase testing capacities.

The federal government recently sent the state 50 Abbott rapid testing machines, which can test specimen samples for COVID-19 in less than an hour. The state sent 44 machines to 24 different communities this week, including several on the Kenai Peninsula — Kenai, Soldotna, Homer and Seward.

Clinton Bennett, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Services, said in a Thursday email that two facilities in Seward and two facilities in Soldotna will be receiving machines. Kenai and Homer are receiving one machine each. Bennett said the department is not releasing the names of the facilities where the machines have been sent.

Each machine comes with four testing kits, which can process 96 tests total. Bennett said the department is working with vendors and federal partners to obtain additional test kits to send to the facilities who have been given machines.

Funds from the federal government are also making their way to local organizations. The CARES Act, which contains federal aid to states and Americans to assist in bolstering public health networks, included nearly $16 million in health and human service grants for Alaska organizations.

An April 8 press release from Alaska’s federal delegation — Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, all Republicans — said the money will “help community health centers prevent and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The city of Seward is receiving $540,350; Peninsula Community Health Services of Alaska Inc. is receiving $606,530 and Seldovia Village Tribe Health Center is receiving $574,565 from the federal relief package.

“Our state continues working around the clock to turn the tide in the fight against COVID-19. The CARES Act continues to provide critical resources to help Alaska prevent and respond to this pandemic,” the congressional delegation said in their release. “The funding announcement is welcome news for Alaska’s health care providers and will help keep Alaskans safe and healthy. The threat posed by COVID-19 requires action at all levels of government. There is no doubt that this pandemic has thrown us into uncharted territory, but we will continue working in Washington, D.C. to ensure that the federal response can meet this crucial moment for our state and nation.”

Marathon Petroleum Corporation announced in an April 7 press release that they donated 575,000 N95 respirator masks to local facilities and that their foundation donated $1 million to American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

The masks were distributed to 45 hospitals in 20 states, and came from a supply the company “prepared years ago as part of its pandemic response plan.”

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