COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

State reports backlogged COVID cases, 10 new deaths

There were a total of 69 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Wednesday

The state Department of Health and Social Services on Wednesday reported 1,435 additional COVID-19 cases in Alaska and 10 new deaths.

The number of new cases reported Wednesday is significantly higher than the 463 new cases reported for the previous reporting period of March 4-6, and is a result of backlogged data from a major testing location in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

According to the department, the facility had been experiencing reporting issues throughout the last month. Because of the issue, case counts sequenced over the past few weeks were added to state COVID data curves Wednesday.

“The data team is working to move these cases back to true occurrence on the curve when toggled to onset date,” the DHSS noted in the summary. “This case count spike is not reflective of a surge or current case activity.”

The state also reported 10 more COVID deaths, pushing the total to 1,168 Alaska resident deaths since the pandemic began. New deaths are reported through death certificate review each Wednesday. Additional COVID deaths come on the back end of another COVID wave driven by the omicron variant of the coronavirus. As of the beginning of the month, health officials said the delta variant has now been completely overtaken by the omicron strain, and even some by its new subvariants. The good news, according to officials, is that COVID hospitalizations, deaths and new infections are trending downward and the data show the subvariants aren’t generally causing more severe illness.

There were a total of 69 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Wednesday, with three of those patients on ventilators.

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

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.

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, whether or not a person has already contracted the virus and despite elapsed time since the completion of the primary series. The Food and Drug Administration 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 DHSS officials say the Janssen shot isn’t the preferred vaccine because of risks of blood clotting and less robust protection against COVID. The state recommends people with a primary Janssen vaccine to get either a Pfizer or Moderna booster.

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money, and are available to people with and without 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 Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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