This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)

‘We have tools, let’s please try to use them’

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the surge has imposed challenges on hospitals and health care workers.

The state announced 471 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 37 on the Kenai Peninsula.

The fatality rate also rose to 406 after an Anchorage woman in her 30s died of the virus and another death was identified through the death certificate review process — a Prince of Wales-Hyder man older than 80.

In a press briefing Thursday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the surge has imposed challenges on hospitals and health care workers.

“You can see that we are almost approaching the total confirmed COVID bed occupied at this time compared to our surge in November,” Zink said. “In general, our hospitals are just very, very full.”

She said many of them are beyond capacity.

“It is really humbling to work in the hospitals these days,” Zink said. “And we are doing everything we can to find ways to support them but it is challenging, particularly in the setting of the entire country surging.”

Reported positive COVID cases from Aug. 6 through Aug. 12 were 2,245. This past week, from Aug. 13 through Aug. 19, that number rose to 3,326 — up about 32%.

The summer surge is bleeding into another school year on the peninsula, and officials are keeping an eye on the success of in-person instruction and urging all eligible people to get their shots as soon as possible. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District welcomed students back Tuesday.

“We want to keep playing, we want to keep these kids in school,” Zink said Thursday. “But as long as we have COVID circulating, we need to continue to use mitigation efforts, including vaccination.”

As of Friday, 53.7% of Alaskans 12 and older were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and almost 60% had received at least one dose.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough — which has the second lowest vaccination rate in the state — 45.7% of those 12 and over were fully vaccinated and another 49.5% had received at least one dose.

The Juneau region leads the state with a 75.8% full vaccination rate for eligible people, while the Matanuska-Susitna has the lowest rate at 37.7%.

Zink urged Alaskans to consider getting vaccinated to minimize the risk of the virus both on the community and the health care system.

“Let’s keep them out of the hospital,” she said Thursday. “Let’s vaccinate, let’s distance, let’s mask. We have tools, let’s please try to use them.”

Getting a vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

Vaccines are available through the Kenai Fire Department by calling 907-283-8270, by walk-in every week at the Soldotna Wednesday Market, and for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Many different businesses on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart and Walgreens, 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 Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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 the Chignik Lagoon Clinic, Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center, Capstone Clinic and Central Peninsula Urgent Care.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Central Peninsula Hospital, Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy. Starting Aug. 17, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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.

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

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