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As Delta Variant Surges, Interest Turns to Booster Shot

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    Covid-19 cases, driven by a mutation to the coronavirus that causes the disease, continue to increase in Alaska, and on the Kenai Peninsula. 

Dr. Christy Tuomi, the infection prevention lead at South Peninsula Hospital, was on Thursday morning’s Covid Brief.

“More recently we're seeing definitely an increase in positive cases and we attribute this to the COVID Delta variant. But also we're taking care of more patients that are severely ill in the hospital more recently,” she said. “So that's my most current experience. Just an increase in positive cases and more people that are more severely ill.”

“I can put some numbers to those observations,” SPH spokesperson Derotha Ferraro added. “So for example, in June, we had four admissions for people who were admitted to the hospital with COVID and in July we had 11 admissions. And then in August as of Tuesday, just in the month of August, we've had seven. So you can see that the trend is more people needing hospitalization.”

“So in comparison at the last of May, the first part of June, we were having under 50 cases reported per day across the state. And now we're up to roughly 350 cases per. So with the Delta variant being about 40 percent to 60 percent more transmissible and with the infectious period being much quicker, more on the order of two to three days, we're seeing a lot more cases. And with a lot more cases means a higher number of deaths and more hospitalizations,” said Alaska Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll. “So when thinking about hospitals, that's that's very evident when you look at Alaska Native Medical Center, their ICU is closed, Providence is filled up, as well as a Bartlett Regional Hospital down in Juneau.”

    Currently, about 58 percent of Alaskans 12-and-above are inoculated against Covid-19, which has certainly played a role in keeping infections from growing even larger. But even with a vaccination, illness and death are still possible, though Carroll says it is highly unlikely.

    Breakthrough cases in those who are vaccinated have prompted studies around the world into the potential for a booster shot. 

“It's been an ongoing conversation amongst ACIP, that's the advisory committee for immunization practices. We are seeing some booster shots around the globe,” Carroll said. “As mentioned Israel, they became the first country to approve a third dose and that was Pfizer. But at this point, no not approved by FDA or emergency use authorization.

    For those who continue to suffer symptoms associated with Covid-19 even after testing negative, Tuomi says it’s okay to go in for another test.

    Ferraro said there’ve been record numbers of people being tested at the hospital’s Covid Clinic on Bartlett Street. In the past week, she said there have been 902 people tested, and of those that have been processed, there have been 79 positive cases for a 14 percent positivity rate.

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