COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

State still at high risk level but COVID cases falling

There were a total of 70 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Monday

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported a two-day total of 463 new COVID cases Monday, as reported cases in Alaska and the United States continue to fall.

Health officials during a public science session last week said that the delta variant of the disease has been completely overrun by the omicron strain in Alaska, and even some by its new subvariant forms.

One of the strains, BA.2, officials said is not much different from the original form of omicron. Health officials said recently that BA.2 trends still show the subvariant is causing less severe illness, and that approved COVID vaccines still offer robust protection.

Because of the availability of at-home COVID testing kits, state health officials say analyzing hospitalization metrics is a more accurate reflection of the amount of virus still spreading.

There were a total of 70 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Monday, with three of those patients on ventilators.

State data showed COVID hospitalizations were also continuing downward on Monday.

The two-day combined total of 463 new cases were sequenced last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The average number of daily cases over the past week as of Monday was 225.4 per 100,000 people, which is still considered high risk. This seven-day average figure estimates a daily case count proportionate to population by averaging the actual number of reported cases each day over the previous week.

New cases reported Monday included 18 in Soldotna, 13 in Kenai, six each in Homer and Seward, three in Sterling, and one in each in Anchor Point, the Kenai Peninsula Boroughs North and South, and Nikiski.

Officials are encouraging everyone to get caught up on their COVID vaccinations in order to minimize risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

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.

State health officials have said studies indicate that a person with their primary series is expected to be about 35% protected against omicron, but that protection jumps to around 75% with a booster dose.

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 the FDA announced it was revising its fact sheet for the Janssen shot to include more data on the risks of blood clotting associated with the vaccine.

According to the DHSS Facebook page, the state is recommending people with a primary Janssen vaccine to get either a Pfizer or Moderna booster for more robust protection.

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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