State data shows the current COVID-19 spike in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. (Image via the Department of Health and Social Services)

State data shows the current COVID-19 spike in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. (Image via the Department of Health and Social Services)

Peninsula sees steep rise in COVID cases

In mid-June, Kenai Peninsula COVID cases approached 0

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported 309 new COVID-19 resident cases on Friday, which included 34 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

This comes one day after the southern peninsula reported a surge of 100 cases, with 82 of them in Homer. That was the largest single-day report of positive cases in Homer since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The state noted that the high number of cases in Homer reflected recent cases that were added to the data hub after a test result processing delay was identified and resolved.

The number of new cases represent a remarkable reversal of COVID-19 case decline on the peninsula and across the state. On June 15, the Kenai Peninsula Borough reported one positive COVID case. Now, less than two months later, the census region is only eight cases down from the most ever reported in the pandemic — 144 in a single day on Nov. 25, 2020.

As of Friday, there had been a total of 390 COVID deaths statewide. On the Kenai Peninsula, a total of 22 people had died of the virus.

Additionally, hospitalizations have increased in the recent surge. As of Friday, 101 people were hospitalized with COVID statewide, and around 80% of adult intensive care unit beds were occupied. In the Gulf Coast region there were 15 patients hospitalized with COVID and only six of the 13 total ICU beds were available.

Local government officials continue to urge Alaskans to get their COVID-19 vaccines in order to curb the effects of COVID-19 and keep businesses and schools open safely.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office issued a press release this week, in which the lawmaker was quoted as saying the vaccines developed under former President Donald Trump’s administration are safe and effective.

As of Friday, nearly 53% of Alaskans 12 and older were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and another 58.4% had received at least one dose. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 44.8% of those eligible were fully vaccinated and 48.2% had received at least one jab, according to the DHSS coronavirus online data hub.

Leading the state in vaccinations are Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula at 90%, the Aleutians East Borough at 87% and the Skagway Municipality at 84%.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough sits at fourth from the bottom with its 48% vaccination rate. Behind the peninsula are the Matanuska-Susitna Borough at 41%, the North Slope Borough at 38% and the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area at 34%.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

Vaccines are available through the Kenai Fire Department by calling 907-283-8270, by walk-in every week at the Soldotna Wednesday Market, and for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Many different businesses on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart and Walgreens, offer vaccines.

Additionally, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy hosts a walk-in clinic in its strip mall storefront at the “Y” intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Vaccination appointments can also be scheduled through the online portal PrepMod, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.

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

People who would like assistance with scheduling a vaccination appointment can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.

The central peninsula call center can be reached at 907-262-4636. The Homer call center can be reached at 907-235-4636. The Seward call center can be reached at 907-224-4636.

Testing locations

Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.

In Kenai, testing is available at the Chignik Lagoon Clinic, Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center, Capstone Clinic and Central Peninsula Urgent Care.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Central Peninsula Hospital, Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy.

In Homer, testing is available at South Peninsula Hospital, or through other area health care providers at Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness, Kachemak Medical Group and Homer Medical Center.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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