This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)

State, peninsula COVID-19 cases continue to surge

More than 3,500 COVID-19 cases were reported in Alaska over the last week.

More than 3,500 COVID-19 cases were reported in Alaska over the last week, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. That’s including 536 cases reported on Friday and 440 reported from the Kenai Peninsula Borough over the last week.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the state’s top medical officials made a plea to Alaskans to help slow the spread of COVID-19 during a Thursday press conference. Staffing shortages in the state’s health care industry are being exacerbated by a surge in cases due to the highly contagious delta variant, they said, so keeping the number of hospitalizations manageable is important.

That conference came as Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna opened its overflow unit to accommodate the number of COVID-positive inpatients being treated. As of Friday at 9:30 a.m., CPH was treating 23 COVID-positive patients, 19 of which are unvaccinated. Eight of those patients were being treated in the ICU, while four were on ventilators, CPH External Affairs Director Bruce Richards said Friday.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough continues to lag behind most other regions in the state for the percentage of residents 12 and older who are fully vaccinated, with that rate hovering around 46.3%, as of Friday. Statewide, about 54.6% of Alaskans 12 and older were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday.

COVID-19 vaccines have been lauded by national, state and local health officials as both safe and efficacious. Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of more than 90%, received full FDA approval for use in people 16 and older on Monday. That vaccine, now marketed as Comirnaty, is still available for people between the ages of 12 and 15 under an emergency use authorization.

That is in addition to the Moderna vaccine and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, which are available to anyone 18 and older for emergency use.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money and 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 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. Starting Aug. 17, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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 Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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