COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

State reports 2nd-highest daily case increase; 10 new cases at Heritage Place

100% remote learning continues for central pen. schools through Dec. 18

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state, the Kenai Peninsula is seeing hospitalizations and deaths related to the disease.

Three patients with COVID-19 have died at Central Peninsula Hospital, and as of Wednesday morning, there were no beds available at the hospital, CPH External Affairs Director Bruce Richards said Wednesday. Richards said the hospital expects to have about 15 discharges by Thursday.

Additionally, Richards said there were 10 new cases reported among residents of Heritage Place, the hospital’s skilled nursing facility, bringing the total number of positive residents to 27. Richards said five of the patients will be considered recovered on Thursday.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 710 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Wednesday, including 59 on the Kenai Peninsula. Affected peninsula communities include Soldotna with 20 cases, Homer with 14 cases, Kenai with 12 cases, Sterling with four cases, Seward with three cases, Anchor Point with two cases, Nikiski with two cases and Other North with two cases.

The new cases bring Alaska’s statewide case total to 29,543, including 28,339 residents and 1,204 nonresidents.

Over the past week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has conducted 1,485 tests and saw a positivity rate of 15.22%. The current statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the last two weeks, is high with 79 cases per 100,000 people. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s alert level is higher at 91.17.

Locally, Central Peninsula Hospital has conducted 9,032 tests with 8,470 negative, 510 positive and 49 pending results. As of Wednesday, CPH was treating 14 patients who were COVID-19 positive, with none of their ventilators in use. Fifty six of the hospital’s approximate 1,000 total staff were in quarantine.

South Peninsula Hospital has conducted 13,377 tests with 12,717 negative, 337 positive and 323 pending results.

The state also reported Wednesday 28 new hospitalizations and no new deaths. To date, 651 Alaska residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 115 have died. Currently there are 145 people hospitalized in Alaska who are COVID-19 positive or who are considered persons under investigation for the disease. Twenty two of the patients are on ventilators.

Alaska’s daily positivity rate for the past seven days, during which 25,833 tests were conducted, is 6.5%. To date, 954,276 tests have been conducted in Alaska.

In addition to the 59 cases on the peninsula, the state also reported 381 cases in Anchorage, 65 in Bethel Census Area, 27 in Wasilla, 21 in Fairbanks, 19 in Eagle River, 18 in Bethel, 15 in Utqiagvik, 11 in Kodiak, 10 in Juneau, nine in Palmer, nine in Sitka, seven in Chugiak, seven in Delta Junction, six in Aleutians East Borough, four in Kusilvak Census Area, four in Nome, four in North Pole, three in Dillingham Census Area, two in North Slope Borough, two in Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, two in Tok and one each in Big Lake, Bristol Bay/Lake and Peninsula boroughs, Chevak, Cordova, Denali Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Girdwood, Houston, Ketchikan, Mat-Su Borough, Nome Census Borough, Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Willow, Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area and one with location under investigation.

Ten nonresident cases were also reported. Five have locations that are still under investigation, three were reported in Anchorage, one was reported in Juneau and one was reported in Northwest Arctic Borough.

Schools update

On Tuesday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District extended 100% remote learning for 34 district schools through Dec. 18, including all schools on the central peninsula.

Pre-K, kindergarten and special education intensive needs students, who shifted to remote learning following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s statewide alert on Nov. 12, will be allowed to resume on-site learning on Dec. 2, with increased COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place.

After a Nov. 2 school board meeting that saw several parents, teachers and students voice their opposition to the repeated extension of remote learning, the district announced that they would be reviewing their SmartStart plan to determine how students could be brought back into school safely during high-risk operations.

KPBSD Superintendent John O’Brien said earlier this month that any new reopening plans will be sent to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for review and then to the school board for approval and adoption.

In their Tuesday announcement, the district said that an update to the SmartStart plan will be presented to the Board of Education at their Dec. 7 meeting.

The district also encouraged people to wear masks, socially distance and keep their bubble small while heading into Thanksgiving.

“Limit your actions to plank the curve and shift the trend downwards, so schools can reopen to the onsite at-school learning option for all grades,” the announcement said.

Small district schools, which include Susan B. English School, Cooper Landing School, Hope School, Nanwalek School, Port Graham School and Tebughna School continue to be open for on-site learning and operate at low-risk level.

During 100% remote learning, Get-It and Go meals are free for all students and can be picked up daily at school.

Operational risk levels, case incidence rates and case numbers by community are updated daily on the district’s risk levels dashboard at covid19.kpbsd.org/dashboard.

Testing locations on the Kenai Peninsula

On the central peninsula, testing is available at Capstone Family Clinic, K-Beach Medical, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Central Peninsula Urgent Care, Peninsula Community Health Services, Urgent Care of Soldotna, the Kenai Public Health Center and Odyssey Family Practice. Call Kenai Public Health at 907-335-3400 for information on testing criteria for each location.

In Homer, testing is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the lower level of South Peninsula Hospital’s Specialty Clinic as well as through SVT Health & Wellness clinics in Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point. Call ahead at the hospital at 907-235-0235 and at the SVT clinics at 907-226-2228.

In Ninilchik, NTC Community Clinic is providing testing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The testing is only for those traveling, symptomatic, needing testing for medical procedures, or with a known exposure after seven days. Only 20 tests will be offered per day. To make an appointment to be tested at the NTC Community Clinic, call 907-567-3970.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Seward, Seward Community Health Center, Glacier Family Medicine and North Star Health Clinic.

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

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