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COVID-19 Update: Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 - Vaccine arrives as case counts accelerate


Nurse Lorne Carroll led off the Homer, COVID Incident Command Team's report to Homer City Council at Monday night's meeting. He says, as of Sunday night, the State of Alaska has 62,000 doses of COVID vaccine to distribute.

"...or if you do the quick math that's about 8.5% of the population. And this vaccine is going to be a two dose series so the federal govenrment is holding on to another 62,000 for those initial 62,000 Alaskans to get their second dose when appropriate,"
said Nurse Carroll.

South Peninsula Hopsital expects to receive it's first shipment  of COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday afternoon and plans to begin vaccinations Thursday morning. That's according to hospital spokesperson, Derotha Ferraro. The hopsital will have 215 doses of the Pfizer-made vaccine.   

"Priority will certainly be long term care residents as well as members of our staff who volunteered to be in the first group. We're also offering it to nursing students and CNA students - who are in our building doing training right now, anyway," Ferraro said.

People who get the vaccine can experience flu-like symptoms, so , Ferraro says, it isn't practical to innoculate the entire staff at once, even if there were enough doses available. Ferraro says SPH will receive their second doses of the vaccine in the next 3 weeks. Beyond that, she says she doesn't know when the next batch will get to Homer.

In the meantime, case counts and positivity rates continue to rise at an accellerating rate.
The hospital swabbed 500 tests last week, 24 of them came back positive for a 5% positivity rate. Ferraro says the hopital is treating one or two COVID patients a day and on Monday, eight staff members were out of work with COVID or quarantining due to exposure.

Ferraro reported to the council that there have been 100 cases on the Southern Peninsula in the last 15 days. That is 20% of the entire number of cases siince the beginning of the pandemic.  Mayor Ken Castner put the data into other terms.

" From the beginning of the pandemic until November 10, we had 175 test positive.
Since then we've had an additional 252,  which is a 144% increase since November 10," said Mayor Castner.

The vaccine won't be widely available for months, so mitigation measures are still vital to public health. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has repeatedly refused to issue a mask mandate and the City of Homer does not have the authority to do so, but Councilmember Rachel Lord introduced a resolution at Monday night's meeting, which was adopted unanimously - for the City to recommend and support basic COVID-19 safety measures,  social distancing and mask wearing throughout Homer. Councilmember Lord says she has heard from many community members asking for some leadership from the Council.

"We are experiencing the massive uptic. We cannot issue a mask mandate. We don't have those health powers. And still we do ask that all business and organizations follow those health guidelines and help get our kids on school and help keep our economy running forward through this pandemic," Lord said.

South Peninsula  Hospital provides free drive-up COVID-19 testing every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at their facility at 4201 Bartlett Street. Call them at 235-0235 if you're coming in for a test or to ask any questions you may have. The City of Homer has a COVID information line for all questions related to COVID-19. That number is 435-3197.

You'll hear from Homer's COVID Incident Command Team on KBBI's regular, Thursday, live COVID Brief. There will be a wrap-up of the CIty's CARES Act funding, and the panelists will answer listener questions live, about all aspects of the pandemic. To email your questions ahead of time, send them to

Kathleen Gustafson came to Homer in 1999 and has been involved with KBBI since 2003