COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)

Variants detected in Alaska as COVID-19 cases increase

The new case count includes 15 on the Kenai Peninsula.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced 225 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday evening, totalling 61,695 in the state. Alaska is considered to be high-risk level. The new case count includes 15 on the Kenai Peninsula.

Affected peninsula communities include Soldotna with six, Kenai, Sterling and the Kenai Peninsula Borough North with two each, and one each in Homer, Nikiski and Seward.

Alaska also reported 77 new cases in Anchorage, 54 in Wasilla, 17 in Eagle River, 16 in Palmer, six each in the Bethel Census Area, Chugiak and Fairbanks, five in Juneau, three in North Pole, two both in Delta Junction and Sitka, and one each in the Aleutians West Census Area, Big Lake, Denali Borough, Dillingham, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Girdwood, Ketchikan, and the Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon.

Additionally six new nonresident COVID-19 cases were reported in Juneau, Sitka and other unconfirmed locations.

The state also reported four new hospitalizations and no new deaths among Alaska residents, bringing statewide totals to date to 1,382 and 309, respectively. As of Wednesday, there were 37 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Alaska, and seven more under investigation for COVID-related illness. Nine of the patients were on ventilators.

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, 74.4% of adult intensive care unit (ICU) beds are occupied statewide. Only 32 ICU beds remain available in Alaska.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on Wednesday that the B.1.1.7 British-originating coronavirus variant is now the leading cause of U.S. infections, according to the New York Times.

Other variants include the B.1.351 strain from South Africa and the P.1 strain from Brazil.

As of Wednesday evening, the CDC had reported 13 coronavirus variant cases in Alaska. Six of the B.1.1.7, six of the B.1.351 and one of the P.1.

California, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, and Massachusetts have the highest number of reported variant cases, at over 750 each.

Slightly over 30% of Alaskans 16 and older — 32.7% — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 42.7% have received at least one dose, according to state data updated on Wednesday. That’s compared to an estimated 66.2% of Alaskans 65 and older who are fully vaccinated and 73% who have received at least one dose.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 27.7% of Alaskans 16 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 36.4% have received at least one dose. Over half of peninsula seniors — 56.8% — are fully vaccinated. Across all age groups, over one-fifth — 22.1% — of peninsula residents are fully vaccinated.

According to NPR on Wednesday, Alaska is fourth nationwide in vaccine rollout, with 24.5% of the state’s total population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Alaska trails New Mexico with 26.3%, South Dakota with 25% Rhode Island with 24.9%.

Getting vaccinated

More than 175 COVID-19 vaccination appointments were available across multiple central peninsula clinics as of Wednesday at 6 p.m. according to PrepMod, the online portal through which appointments can be scheduled. PrepMod can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.

These clinics include the Nikiski Senior Center, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, Fred Meyer Pharmacy and the Kenai Fire Department.

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov. Many providers are using the state’s program to schedule appointments, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov. Instructions on how to schedule an appointment through alternative entities can be found on the map by clicking the icon of the preferred provider. Appointments at Walmart can be scheduled at walmart.com/covidvaccine.

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.

The City of Kenai is offering transportation to and from vaccine clinics located in Kenai in partnership with CARTS and Alaska Cab. Rides will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis until the budgeted funds run out. In order to participate in the program, people must be going from an address located in Kenai to a clinic in Kenai and will need to provide proof of vaccination.

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