A DHSS map shows every region of Alaska to be at "high" COVID-19 alert level. (Screenshot)

State reports 1,800 COVID cases over the weekend

The cases include some reported in peninsula communities

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced Monday that 1,864 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Alaska over the weekend.

The cases include 41 reported in Soldotna, 36 in Homer, 21 in Kenai, 20 in Seward, nine in Sterling, six in Anchor Point, four in two Northern Kenai Peninsula Borough communities, three in Nikiski and one in Fritz Creek.

Alaska was considered to be at “high” COVID alert level Moday, with 810.5 cases reported per 100,000 people over the last seven days. A region is considered to be at “high” alert level when that rate is above 100. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s alert level was similarly high, with 778.8 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days.

DHSS only reports new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesdays as of last week. The department Monday reported two new COVID hospitalizations among Alaska residents. As of Monday, there were 112 people hospitalized due to COVID in Alaska, including one who was considered a person under investigation.

As of Monday, 64.3% of Alaskans five and older had received at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, while 58.8% were fully vaccinated. That is compared to the Kenai Peninsula, which continues to lag behind other regions of the state with 48.7% of residents 5 and older vaccinated.

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

Because many omicron cases have reportedly been less symptomatic, and because of the increasing availability of at-home COVID test kits, state officials with the DHSS are encouraging people to use hospitalizations and death metrics to determine the severity of the state’s COVID spread.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for everyone 5 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are approved for anyone 18 and older. Moderna’s vaccine also got fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for those 18 and older last month, and Pfizer’s vaccine got full FDA authorization for people 16 and older last August.

In addition to a primary series — two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine — experts are strongly encouraging booster shots to protect against omicron. Health officials said studies indicate a person with their primary series is expected to be about 35% protected against omicron, and 75% protected with a booster dose.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending Pfizer boosters for anyone 12 and older at least five months after the primary series. Additionally, Moderna boosters are recommended for anyone 18 and older at least six months after a primary series.

Janssen boosters are approved for anyone 18 and older at least two months after initial vaccination, although the FDA announced it was revising its fact sheet for the Janssen shot to include more data on the risks of blood clotting associated with the vaccine. According to the DHSS Facebook page, the state is recommending people with a primary Janssen vaccine to get either a Pfizer or Moderna booster for more robust protection.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money, nor do they require 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 addition, Capstone Clinic in Homer will be offering drive-thru tests Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday. Register with the COVID Secure App before arriving.

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.

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

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