Signs on May 7, 2020, along the Sterling Highway by St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Homer, Alaska, and put up by the South Kenai Peninsula Resiliency Coalition offer encouragement during the COVID-19 pandemic. The signs read “Physical distancing can be hard. Everyday connections are so important. How can you make someone smile today?” (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Signs on May 7, 2020, along the Sterling Highway by St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Homer, Alaska, and put up by the South Kenai Peninsula Resiliency Coalition offer encouragement during the COVID-19 pandemic. The signs read “Physical distancing can be hard. Everyday connections are so important. How can you make someone smile today?” (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Sixth Homer resident tests positive

State extends mandatory quarantine for visitors, updates commercial fishing guidelines

A sixth Homer resident has tested positive for COVID-19, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported on Sunday. That is the second Homer resident reported positive this weekend, following a report on Saturday of a fifth positive case.

Another nonresident seafood worker also has tested positive for the disease caused by the SARS-Covid-2 novel coronavirus.

DHSS on May 17 announced four new cases of COVID-19 in three Alaska communities: two cases in Anchorage and one each in Juneau and Homer. This brings the total Alaska case count to 396.

These cases reflect data from midnight until 11:59 p.m. on May 16 that posted at noon today on the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub.

It is not clear whether the people reported on Saturday and Sunday were tested locally at South Peninsula Hospital or if they got the disease in Homer. SPH Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro said on Saturday that the state has not notified SPH of any additional positive tests from the local hospital. She also did not have any information about the Homer resident reported on Sunday. At press time on Sunday DHSS had not responded to emails sent Saturday and Sunday seeking more information on the Homer cases.

Under DHSS and federal Centers for Disease Control protocols, positive COVID-19 cases are identified by the place a person claims residency, not necessarily where they acquired the disease or were tested. Since testing started for the pandemic, there have been two lower Kenai Peninsula patients who were not in the area at the time of testing: a Homer person who tested in Anchorage and stayed in Anchorage and an Anchor Point resident who died Outside.

Of Homer’s six total cases, three are known to have been tested locally.

Ferraro did say that there are no COVID-19 hospitalizations at South Peninsula Hospital.

The new Juneau case identified on May 16 was a staff member at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. This is the 11th Lemon Creek staff member to test positive for COVID-19. All staff and inmates were tested late last week at the facility with more test results due back soon. So far, no inmates have tested positive.

Nonresident cases are not part of the Alaska case counts and are listed separately. Another nonresident case in Alaska was identified Saturday in a seafood worker who is still under quarantine in Anchorage. Due to a data lag, this case is not yet listed in the nonresident count on the website but will be added later Sunday or as soon as the website can be updated.

“We know this is concerning to hear about another seafood industry case, but we continue to be reassured that these cases are being detected and contained,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. “All of the safeguards designed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading or entering new communities while allowing essential business to continue in Alaska are helping detect cases before these individuals leave quarantine.”

There is now a total of 10 nonresident cases; five of those have been in seafood workers, two in visitors, two in airline industry workers and one identified with the mining industry.

Of the new Alaska resident cases, two are male and two are female. One is aged 10-19, two are aged 30-39 and one is aged 50-59. Under changes to the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub that took effect last week, DHSS removed its public cases data table, so there is no way of knowing the residency of the patients identified by age range and sex.

There have been a total of 43 hospitalizations and 10 deaths with no new hospitalizations or deaths reported yesterday. Recovered cases still total 344, with no new recovered cases recorded yesterday. A total of 34,651 tests have been conducted.

Locally, South Peninsula Hospital had sent 640 samples off for testing as of Friday, according to the hospital’s website. Of those, four total tests have come back positive, 626 have come back negative and 10 tests are still pending.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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