COVID-19 (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19 (Image courtesy CDC)

State reports 3 more COVID deaths, more than 900 cases

The newly reported deaths push Alaska’s total to 594 COVID fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported three more COVID-19 deaths Friday, which included men in Nome and Utqiagvik and a woman in Anchorage.

The newly reported deaths push Alaska’s total to 594 COVID fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic, contributing to the more than 724,000 nationwide deaths reported by the New York Times.

DHSS also announced another 984 positive COVID cases Friday as Alaska remained at a high alert level — with an estimated seven-day rolling average of 867.61 cases per 100,000 people across the state.

The threshold for high alert level is 100 or more cases per 100,000 people. The state has surpassed that metric more than eight times over.

Friday’s new case count included 18 in Soldotna, 17 in Kenai, 13 in Homer, eight in the Kenai Peninsula Borough North, two in both Anchor Point and Nikiski and one in Sterling.

Statewide, there were 220 COVID-related hospitalizations as of Friday, with 22 of them on ventilators.

At Central Peninsula Hospital there were 21 COVID patients on Friday morning — 17 unvaccinated — with five in the intensive care unit and four on ventilators. The hospital as a whole was operating at 102% capacity.

Health officials widely agree that choosing to get vaccinated is the single best tool there is to protect the people in each community.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, now marketed as the Comirnaty, received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration for anyone 16 and older in August.

Pfizer is still available via emergency use authorization in accordance to FDA guidelines for kids 12 to 15 years old, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen shots have an EUA for anyone 18 and older.

Additionally, the FDA approved a third dose of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for emergency use in immunocompromised people in August.

And in September the FDA approved a booster dose for the Pfizer shot. They are available for anyone 65 years or older, anyone 18 and older living in long-term care facilities, anyone 18 and older with underlying health conditions and anyone 18 and older working in high-risk settings.

Moderna received FDA recommendation from its advisory panel for booster doses Thursday as well, but still waits on final approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Primary care providers can determine eligibility for an initial vaccine series, as well as immunocompromised third shots and booster doses.

Across the state, 59.1% of everyone 12 and up was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday. Another 64.2% had received at least one shot.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s vaccination rate continues to lag behind many other regions.

As of Friday, 49.4% of people 12 and older were fully vaccinated and another 53.4% had received at least one dose.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

As an incentive to get the shots, the DHSS and Alaska Chamber of Commerce launched a lottery program for newly vaccinated eligible residents that offers weekly winners a prize of at least $49,000. To find out the eligibility requirements or to enter into the giveaway sweepstakes, visit giveakashot.com. The lottery lasts through Oct. 30.

Many different organizations on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart and Walgreens, and the Kenai Fire Department offer vaccines. They are also available for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

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 with 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.

COVID 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 and Capstone Clinic.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the 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 Sept. 14, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-through testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 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 Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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