COVID-19. (Image via CDC)

COVID-19. (Image via CDC)

State reports record number of cases; positivity rate reaches 5%

Weekly COVID update

Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services reported a record 1,241 COVID-19 cases this week, which includes a single-day high of 232 cases reported on Saturday, and another 174 reported Friday.

DHSS noted in its latest case count summary for Oct. 10 that Alaskans should expect to see this many cases or more announced per day going forward, due to increased verification efforts at the state’s Section of Epidemiology.

“Today’s high daily case count is evidence of extra personnel and focus on the effort to process and count reports and minimize the delay from receipt to posting on the Hub,” the summary states. “Daily case counts in the near future seem likely to remain at this level or higher based on reports currently being processed.”

Of the 232 cases announced Saturday, 230 are residents of 29 communities: 128 in Anchorage, 24 in Fairbanks, 11 in Eagle River, eight in Wasilla, seven in North Pole, seven in Palmer, six in Kenai, four in Bethel, four in Juneau, three in Homer, three in Kotzebue, two in Chugiak, two in Dillingham, two in Fritz Creek, two in Healy, two in the Nome Census Area, two in the Northwest Arctic Borough and two in Sterling. One case was identified in each of the following communities: Aleutians East Borough, Bethel Census Area, Cordova, Girdwood, Ketchikan, Kusilvak Census Area, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Seward, Soldotna, Willow and the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area.

The Kenai Peninsula has seen 40 new cases in the last seven days, which moved the eastern portion of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District into a high-risk level, while the central peninsula moved from low into medium risk.

Another 19 Alaskans were hospitalized this week after contracting COVID-19. DHSS reported two additional deaths related to the disease. The latest death reported was an Anchorage woman in her 70s, which the state announced on Oct. 8.

Currently, there are 44 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 who are hospitalized and another 22 patients who are suspected of having the disease and are under investigation. Five of those patients are being treated on a ventilator.

With 9,832 tests conducted in the last seven days, Alaska has conducted 499,253 COVID-19 tests overall since March. The positivity rate of tests processed in the last seven days is 4.52%. The seven-day positivity rate peaked on Friday at 5.28%. At this time last week, Alaska’s seven-day positivity rate was 3.74%.

On the Kenai Peninsula, 21,670 tests have been conducted. The region’s seven-day positivity rate was 2.7% on Saturday.

Another 510 Alaskans recovered from COVID-19 this week, for a total of 5,136 recoveries since March, when the state began tracking the pandemic.

The information in this article is based on data reported by Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services between Oct. 3 and Oct. 10.

Risk levels

Risk levels are one of the major tools the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District uses to determine the status of schools.

KPBSD also uses input from seven-day averages of positive cases, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Learning, and the COVID-19 Community Risk Level Medical Advisory Group.

DHSS created risk levels as part of a plan to reopen long-term care facilities to visitors, but DHSS says risk levels also can be used to inform decisions by other entities, including schools, institutions of higher learning and businesses.

The Alaska School Activities Association also is using risk levels to make determinations on practices and games for activities and sports.

Central Peninsula — Medium Risk

The central peninsula, or Kenai, Nikiski, Soldotna, Sterling and “other North,” had six resident cases reported by the state Friday and nine on Saturday for a total of 39 cases in the last 14 days.

The central peninsula is high risk when there are 52 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 51 to 26 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are 25 or fewer cases in the last 14 days.

According to the district’s Smart Start plan, at medium risk, “Buildings are open with possible social (physical) distancing protocols in place. Parents may select for students to learn remotely.”

For sports, ASAA allows practices and competitions to take place at medium-risk level, but more restrictions are in place than at low-risk level.

Southern Peninsula — Low Risk

The southern peninsula, or Homer, Fritz Creek, Anchor Point and “other South,” had no resident cases reported by the state Friday and five on Saturday for a total of eight cases in the last 14 days.

The southern peninsula is at high risk when there are 20 or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are 19 to 10 cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are nine cases or fewer in the last 14 days.

According to the district’s Smart Start plan, at low risk, “Buildings are open and learning is conducted with additional protocols for health, safety, and continuity. Parents may select for students to learn remotely.”

For sports, ASAA allows practices and competitions to take place at low-risk level, but fewer restrictions are in place than at medium-risk level.

Eastern Peninsula — High Risk

The eastern peninsula, or Seward, had no resident cases reported by the state Friday and one on Saturday for a total of eight cases in the last 14 days.

The eastern peninsula is at high risk when there are eight or more cases in the last 14 days, medium risk when there are four to seven cases in the last 14 days, and low risk when there are three or fewer cases in the last 14 days.

According to the district’s Smart Start plan, at high risk, “Buildings are closed to students and learning is 100% remote. Possible exception for ‘vulnerable populations’ of students individually or in small groupings.”

For sports, ASAA says sports competitions cease at high risk. Outdoor practices are preferred with 10 feet maintained between all individuals, but indoor practices may occur with specific protocols in place.

Because the eastern peninsula moved into high risk this week, schools in Seward and Moose Pass shifted into 100% remote learning starting Friday until at least Oct. 16.

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 Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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