EMT Jason Tauriainen administers a COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, Jan. 23 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the Nikiski Senior Center)

EMT Jason Tauriainen administers a COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, Jan. 23 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the Nikiski Senior Center)

State reports fewer than 100 cases for first time since September; more than 5,000 vaccinated on peninsula

Only two cases were reported on the peninsula, in Homer and Soldotna

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 84 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska, the first time the state has reported a daily case increase of less than 100 since September, when 57 cases were reported on Sept. 23.

Monday’s new cases include just two on the Kenai Peninsula, one in Homer and one in Soldotna, and bring Alaska’s statewide case total to 53,399, including 51,693 residents and 1,706 nonresidents.

As of Monday, 80,300 Alaskans had received at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, with 17,837 having already received both. In total, 98,137 of the 114,800 doses allocated for Alaska had been administered as of Monday, though that number is expected to be higher due to a lag in reporting.

During a Monday press conference, state health officials said that they do not yet know what Alaska’s vaccine allocation will be for February, but they are expecting to find out this week. Additionally, officials stressed the importance of vaccinating seniors ages 65 and older, who became eligible to receive the vaccine earlier this month and who state officials said they are likely to continue vaccinating throughout the entire month of February.

DHSS also updated the layout of their COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, which can now filter vaccine data by geographic regions in the state. According to the dashboard, 5,046 people in the “Kenai Peninsula Region” had received the COVID-19 vaccine and 1,276 had already received both doses.

The central peninsula saw several large-scale vaccination clinics over the weekend, including at Soldotna Prep School and at the Nikiski Senior Center, where 81 members were vaccinated. According the NSC Executive Director Sasha Fallon, the Nikiski Fire Department also traveled to the homes of members who were unable to leave due to medical conditions to administer the vaccine. At Central Peninsula Hospital, External Affairs Director Bruce Richards said Monday that the hospital is planning another employee vaccination clinic on Tuesday for employees getting their second dose and that the hospital is waiting to see how many doses they will be receiving for February. Richards said that the hospital has vaccinated just over 500 clinic patients and almost 400 employees as of Monday.

Along with vaccination rollout, COVID testing continues statewide and on the peninsula. Over the past week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough conducted 1,347 tests and saw a positivity rate of 1.48%. The borough has conducted 60,233 tests to date. Statewide, 31,850 COVID-19 tests were conducted over the past week, which saw a positivity rate of 2.93%. To date, 1,457,053 tests have been conducted in Alaska.

The current statewide alert level, based on the average daily case rate for the last two weeks, is high at 27.93. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s rate is also high at 12.85.

The state did not report any new hospitalizations or deaths on Monday. DHSS began including “probable deaths” in the death and case counts on Jan. 4. To date, 1,161 Alaska residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 257 have died.

As of Monday, there were 54 people hospitalized in Alaska due to COVID, including one patient who was considered a person under investigation for the disease. Seven of the patients are on ventilators.

In addition to the two new cases on the peninsula, the state also reported 45 new cases in Anchorage, six in Chugiak, six in Northwest Arctic Borough, four in Eagle River, four in Wasilla, three in Bethel, three in Fairbanks, three in North Pole, two in Sutton-Alpine and one each in Bethel Census Area, Juneau, Kodiak, Kotzebue and Palmer.

One nonresident case was also reported with a location still under investigation.

Who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine right now?

In determining who is able to get the COVID vaccine and when, the state considers recommendations from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Vaccine allocation is divided into three phases.

Those phases are divided into sub-phases. Those sub-phases are then divided further into tiers. Front-line health care workers, along with residents and staff of long-term care facilities were given first priority in Phase 1a, Tier 1.

Phase 1a, Tier 2 includes front-line EMS and Fire Service personnel frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients, community health aides/practitioners and health care workers providing vaccinations. Vaccinations for people in Phase 1a, Tiers 1 and 2 began on Dec. 15.

Phase 1a, Tier 3 includes workers in health care settings who are at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 and who are essential to the health care infrastructure who meet specific criteria outlined by the state. Vaccinations for people in Phase 1a, Tier 3 began on Jan. 4. Appointments for people in Phase 1b Tier 1, meaning Alaskans who are 65 and older, had their first appointments on Jan. 11.

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.

EMT Angie Parrish-Smith (right) administers a COVID-19 vaccine to John Turnbull (left) on Saturday, January 23 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the Nikiski Senior Center)

EMT Angie Parrish-Smith (right) administers a COVID-19 vaccine to John Turnbull (left) on Saturday, January 23 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the Nikiski Senior Center)

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