Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Pressure lets up at hospitals

As of Wednesday, there were 69 COVID-related hospitalizations in the state

Average hospital capacity is returning to manageable levels statewide, as Alaskans recover from a third wave of the coronavirus — driven by the omicron variant.

Gene Wiseman, the section chief of the rural and community health systems with the state, said in an interview Thursday that just about 4% of current statewide hospitalizations are related to COVID-19.

“Now we’re kind of back to normal hospital capacities from what we’ve seen, without a surge of COVID or just during regular operations,” Wiseman said.

The omicron wave, which took off at the turn of new year and started to recede in late January, was the third major surge of COVID cases in Alaska since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago.

Wiseman said, however, that omicron hasn’t caused as many severe COVID cases as its predecessor, the delta variant. Delta patients required much more attention and intensive care unit-level care in the hospital, he said.

“Our ICU capacity during this wave of omicron was there was more capacity during omicron than there was delta,” he said.

As of Wednesday, there were 69 COVID-related hospitalizations in the state. Around two weeks prior, that number was at 106.

In the Gulf Coast — which includes the Kenai Peninsula — COVID hospitalizations during the omicron wave were less than half of what they were while the delta variant was the dominant strain. The peak hospitalizations in the region was 15 on Feb. 22 during the omicron wave, and 38 during the delta surge on Oct. 25, 2021.

Bruce Richards, the external affairs director of Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, said Thursday the facility is also following statewide COVID hospitalization trends.

“It’s really tapered off to basically zero,” he said.

Richards noted that while there have still been a few COVID-related hospitalizations, the amount isn’t as demanding as previous waves. Last October, for example, there were periods where around 50% of CPH’s inpatients were being treated for the virus.

Although omicron hasn’t been as severe as other variants, it has still impacted Alaska’s health care system. Wiseman said because of the increased transmissibility, many more health care workers have been forced to quarantine after testing positive or ending up as a close contact.

“It was like the other side of the coin,” Wiseman said. “You were seeing a lot of staff sick calls.”

Recently, as cases continue to drop, he said fewer health care professionals have been out of work because of COVID. Richards also emphasized that while COVID hospitalizations are falling, that doesn’t mean facilities are necessarily less busy overall.

Richards said CPH was at 96% capacity Thursday — with “hardly any COVID,” but with other injuries and illnesses.

Statewide COVID hospitalization trends can be viewed at the DHSS Coronavirus Response Hub website.

Getting a vaccine

Officials widely agree getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID will help slow the spread and protect people from severe illness, hospitalization and death.

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money, and are available to people with and without health insurance. Many organizations on the central peninsula — including Walmart, Walgreens, the Kenai Fire Department and Kenai Public Health — 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. The clinic is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

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 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 Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic. At-home test kits are also available for free at Kenai Public Health.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional 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. In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy.

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

More in News

Central Emergency Services staff wait to receive doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna, borough to continue 911 dispatch partnership

The assembly approved an agreement Tuesday

Alaska State Troopers logo.
ATV accident leaves teen dead in Ninilchik

A 15-year-old girl was driving an ATV with a 14-year-old female passenger

Cook Inlet can be seen at low tide from North Kenai Beach on June 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Comment period on proposed Cook Inlet lease sale opens Friday

Cook Inlet is one of 11 locations described in the department’s Proposed Program for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Pottery pieces are displayed as a part of the Kenai Potters’ Guild July show at the Kenai Art Center on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Throwing together

Potters’ Guild artists show off their clay creations

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
This photo shows boats moored at Don D. Statter Harbor on a recent sunny day. According to statistics recently release by the U.S. Coast Guard, boating accidents were down in Alaska in 2021.
Boating fatalities trending down for 2021

Numbers met expectations, said safety instructors

Fishermen took to the mouth of the Kasilof River for opening day of dipnetting, on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion file)
Kasilof dipnetting expanded, sockeye catch upped

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued multiple advisory announcements for sport anglers and dipnetters

Signs warn Fred Meyer customers to prepay if they thing they may go over limits while pumping gas on Friday, March 11, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Analysis: Inflation is up in Alaska

Alaska’s 2021 average inflation rate was the largest annual price increase since 1990

Mount Redoubt can be seen acoss Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Offshore oil plan envisions a single Cook Inlet sale

The proposed 2023-2028 plan is similar to the just-ended Obama administration five-year plan

People line the streets in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022 for the annual Independence Day parade. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Red, white and blue all day

Kenai turns out for parade, activities to celebrate Independence Day

Most Read