5 deaths, 382 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday

Homer on the Kenai Peninsula is experiencing its largest case surge since the pandemic began
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With COVID-19 hospitalizations still high and cases surging in communities around the state, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported five additional COVID-19-related deaths and 382 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

The five newly reported deaths all occurred in May, according to the state health department, and were identified through the routine death certificate review process.

The people who died were an Anchorage man 80 or older, an Anchorage woman in her 70s, a Fairbanks woman 80 or older, a Matanuska-Susitna Borough woman in her 70s and a Palmer man in his 70s. To date, the state has reported a total of 390 Alaska residents and eight nonresidents whose deaths have been related to COVID-19.

The state also added 82 new COVID-19 cases for Homer on Thursday. According to its emailed update, the health department said this was due to a processing delay for test results for the coastal city at the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula.

“There was no delay in communicating the test results to the individuals who tested positive,” the department wrote.

DHSS spokesperson Clinton Bennett confirmed Thursday via email that the delay was in getting the cases added to the state’s data dashboard.

“The delay in southern peninsula data being properly reflected on the state dashboard came at the same exact time that we the southern peninsula is experiencing the largest covid-surge we’ve had in the course of the pandemic,” wrote Derotha Ferraro, public information officer for Homer’s South Peninsula Hospital, in an email. “It was very unfortunate timing, but we are very glad they have it resolved now.”

According to Ferraro, the hospital was processing 50-60 COVID-19 tests a day in early June, and the positivity rate for the area was 2.3%. For the two week period from July 22 to this Wednesday, hospital data shows the positivity rate for testing at the hospital is now up to 8%.

The hospital has identified 147 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the last two weeks. The hospital offers testing to residents and visitors alike, though, so that number is not necessarily reflective of how many active cases there are among Homer residents at this point.

South Peninsula Hospital had 10 admissions for COVID-19 patients in July, Ferraro said. There’s been one additional COVID-19 admission so far in August.

“Our highest day of total number of people hospitalized for Covid-19 was six,” she wrote. “So far we have had enough negative pressure rooms, ventilators and PPE. As is the same with other hospitals, our weakness is that we have a staffing shortage due to pre-arranged time off, and covid-related time off (for quarantine or isolation).”

Homer is not the only part of the state experiencing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 activity. The community of Stebbins was put on lockdown last week, and communities in Southeast Alaska have brought back mitigation measures as their COVID-19 cases surged.

Thursday’s COVID-19 update comes a day after Gov. Mike Dunleavy called on more Alaska residents to get vaccinated.

Currently, 58.2% of Alaskans age 12 and older have received at least their first vaccine dose, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard, while 52.6% of Alaskans 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.

The statewide alert level, which is based on the average daily case rate over the last 14 days per 100,000 people, remains high at 33.6 cases per 100,000. There are no regions of the state in the low or intermediate alert level — all regions are in the high alert level.

Of the 382 new cases reported Thursday, 351 of them were identified among residents of the following communities:

  • Homer: 82
  • Anchorage: 69
  • Wasilla: 20
  • Kodiak: 18
  • Nome Census Area: 18
  • Kenai: 16
  • Fairbanks: 15
  • Anchor Point: 14
  • North Pole: 12
  • Palmer: 11
  • Soldotna: 10
  • Eagle River: 9
  • Valdez: 7
  • Juneau: 6
  • Cordova: 5
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough South: 4
  • Copper River Census Area: 3
  • Seward: 3
  • Sitka: 3
  • Yukon Koyukuk Census Area: 3
  • Aleutians East Borough: 2
  • Chugiak: 2
  • Denali Borough: 2
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough North: 2
  • Ketchikan: 2
  • Sterling: 2
  • Utqiaġvik: 2
  • Bethel: 1
  • Bethel Census Area: 1
  • Big Lake: 1
  • Douglas: 1
  • Fritz Creek: 1
  • Girdwood: 1
  • North Slope Borough: 1
  • Northwest Arctic Borough: 1
  • Southeast Fairbanks Census Area: 1

The state also reported 31 additional nonresident cases of COVID-19 on Thursday— eight in Homer, seven in an unknown part of the state, four in Fairbanks, three in Anchorage, two in Ketchikan and one each in Delta Junction, Juneau, Kenai, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Skagway, Soldotna, Valdez.

As of Thursday, there are 98 people being hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, state data shows, as well as three people being hospitalized with suspected cases. There are 17 of those patients on ventilators. The percentage of people hospitalized in Alaska who have COVID-19 is 9%, according to the health department.

The state’s data dashboard shows that in Anchorage, there are seven adult ICU beds available, and that there are 77 adult non-ICU beds available.

Since the pandemic began, the state has conducted more than 2.53 million COVID-19 tests, and currently has a seven-day average positivity rate of 6.35%.

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