Gov. Mike Dunleavy and several members of his administration held a press conference Tuesday evening to discuss recent changes to Alaska’s CARES Act small business grants and gave the latest update on the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alaska’s CARES Act Grant program was recently expanded to allow applications from commercial fishers, 501(c)(6) nonprofits, and businesses that have already received federal financial relief.
In addition, the application process for the state grants was centralized to a single website that is managed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. Alan Weitzner, who serves as executive director of AIDEA, spoke at Tuesday night’s press conference about how many Alaska businesses have taken advantage of the program so far.
The new application portal opened Aug. 6. Weitzner said that since then there have been over 740 new applications received that amount to about $36 million in grant requests, suggesting that the expansion of eligibility criteria was beneficial to many business owners that were previously ineligible. So far, about $22.6 million has been distributed to businesses across the state, and overall more than 3,300 grant applications have been received for a requested amount of about $150 million. That is still only about half of the $290 million that the state set aside specifically for small business relief.
During her update on the latest COVID-19 cases reported by the Department of Health and Social Services, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink noted that Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Asian Pacific Islanders make up a disproportionate number of both overall cases and hospitalizations in Alaska. When asked if there were any noticeable trends in the ages of people that have been hospitalized in Alaska after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Zink said that people of all age ranges have been hospitalized, but that a “surprising” number of recent hospitalizations have been among people in their 20s and 30s. More information on the age ranges of hospitalized cases in the state’s weekly report, Zink said.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Alaska saw another 50 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, 45 among residents and five nonresidents. Most of the resident cases occurred in Anchorage (22), but several communities on the Kenai Peninsula also reported new cases: three are from Sterling, two are from Seward, two are from Soldotna and one is from Homer.
Seven new hospitalizations were reported Tuesday, for a total of 161 since the state began tracking the pandemic in March. Currently, 31 people are hospitalized who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and another nine hospitalized patients are still under investigation.
A total of 290,744 tests have been conducted statewide, and the average positivity rate of tests processed in the last seven days is 2.36%.
Locally, Central Peninsula Hospital has conducted 3,747 tests, according to Public Information Officer Bruce Richards. Of those, 78 have come back positive, 3,570 have come back negative and 95 are pending results.
South Peninsula Hospital has conducted a total of 6,893 tests, according to Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro. Of those, 110 have come back positive, 6,601 have come back negative, and 182 are pending results.
As of Tuesday, the state has changed the way it reports the geographic data for tests conducted. Previously, the location of the tests processed by commercial and hospital laboratories was based on the residency of the person tested, but going forward that data will be based on the physical location of the test provider.
Also, the state will now report positive antigen or antibody tests as cases, and antigen tests will be included in the total testing count. This is in line with an Aug. 6 decision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to classify positive results from antigen tests as probably cases of COVID-19.
Testing locations on the Kenai Peninsula
On the central peninsula, testing is available on the Central Peninsula 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 Mondays, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.