Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink addresses members of the media during a remote press conference on Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Alaska. (Screenshot)

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink addresses members of the media during a remote press conference on Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Alaska. (Screenshot)

Zink: Stay vigilant with COVID mitigation

Some parts of Alaska are experiencing increased COVID transmission

As Alaska continues to lead the nation in vaccination efforts, the state’s chief medical officer cautioned Thursday that people should not let their guard down when it comes to COVID mitigation.

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said during a press briefing Thursday that while the state is starting to see some regions move into intermediate and low risk, others are seeing increased COVID spread. Petersburg and Cordova, for example, are seeing a surge in cases, she said.

“COVID is not done and we do not have enough of our population vaccinated to let down our guard fully,” Zink said. “We need to keep up the mitigation efforts as we move forward.”

Zink said that as of Thursday morning, 21% of all Alaskans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 14.5% are fully vaccinated. Among Alaskans 16 and older, Zink said, 28% have received at least one dose and 18.7% are fully vaccinated. Zink said that the state is tracking vaccines among people 16 and above because among the three vaccines 16 is the youngest age for which any vaccine can be offered.

The state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitoring Dashboard said that as of Thursday, 11,107 of 47,102 Kenai Peninsula Borough residents who are 16 and older — about 23.6% — had received at least one dose.

NPR’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker estimates that 15.9% of the nationwide population — which includes children ineligible to be vaccinated — have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday.

More than 575,000 individual doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been allocated to Alaska since last December. That number includes allocations for Indian Health Services (IHS) and to pharmacies participating in the CDC’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 vaccination, to which 10,480 pairs of vaccine had been allocated as of Thursday.

Through that program, Alaska’s pharmacy partners are Walmart Inc., Albertsons Companies, Inc. and Walgreens, meaning they receive vaccine allocations in addition to the state’s allocation. Through that program, the Kenai Walmart is able to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to people eligible to receive it. Appointments at Walmart can be scheduled at walmart.com/covidvaccine.

As of Thursday, people eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska include: people 55 and older; people 16 and older who are CISA-defined essential workers, considered high risk due to health conditions, living in a multigenerational household or congregate settings or in communities with limited plumbing; people helping someone 65 or older get vaccinated; pre-K through 12th grade education staff member; those providing daily support to a “medically fragile” person; or those interacting with people living in congregate settings as part of their job.

As of Thursday at 4 p.m., there were more than 600 vaccine appointments available for three clinics offered by Soldotna Professional Pharmacy at Soldotna Prep School on March 13. The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine will be offered during appointments scheduled between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The Moderna vaccine will be offered during appointments scheduled between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be offered during appointments scheduled between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Three vaccines are available in Alaska. Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine is available to people 16 and older and requires two doses administered 21 days apart to be fully effective. Moderna’s vaccine is available for people 18 and older and requires two doses administered 28 days apart to be fully effective. Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available to people 18 and older and only requires one dose to be fully effective.

People who would like assistance with scheduling an appointment to be vaccinated can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 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.

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 with a provider that does not use the state’s scheduling system can be found on the provider map by clicking on the icon of the provider through which people would like to schedule an appointment. Appointments at Walmart can be scheduled at walmart.com/covidvaccine.

The City of Kenai is offering transportation to and from vaccine clinics located in Kenai in partnership with CARTS and Alaska Cab. The city council approved $5,000 for the program at their Jan. 20 meeting. 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.

The state reported 137 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Thursday, including 11 that were reported among nonresidents. Affected peninsula communities include Soldotna with two cases, Homer with one case, Kenai with one case and Other North with one case.

The new cases bring Alaska’s statewide case total to 59,180, including 56,745 resident cases and 2,435 nonresident cases. Five new hospitalizations and no new deaths were reported on Thursday. There are 32 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Alaska, including eight who are considered persons under investigation for the disease. Two of the patients are on ventilators.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough currently has the third-lowest 14-day case rate in the state at 5.82 cases per 100,000 population. Alaska as a whole is still considered to be at high risk with a 14-day case rate of 16.88.

COVID-19 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. Testing is also available at Homer Public Health Center daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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.

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