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Omicron Drives New Positive Cases

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Public health agencies bracing for post-holiday increases.

Covid-19 infection rates are climbing again in Alaska as the more-easily-transmitted Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain of the coronavirus. There have now been five cases identified in the state, according to Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll.

"And we'll know more over the next two to three weeks and that's in part because number one it takes a few weeks for sequencing to complete so that information comes in late, but also number two, there's a lot of travel going on right now with the holidays even despite weather. So we expect that there could be an increase related to that travel as well," Carroll said.

Carrol said that after a drop in cases starting in November, infection rates are going back up again.

"But beginning Dec. 22 through Dec. 28 that week we experienced an increase of 66 percent, So two thirds increase in cases for that particular week. I'm in regards to hospitalizations. We're not doing too bad about two-thirds of non-icu beds across the state are occupied. So only about a third of those are available and it's the same picture for adult ICU beds and you know, 52 folks are currently hospitalized in the state with Covid in 10 of those are on the vent and that accounts for about six percent of all hospitalizations right now. Now those cases are also being reflected in a high rate of positivity for test daily and that is over 7 percent And so what that tells us, so overall we're having an increase," Carrol said.

Last week, the CDC shortened the recommended isolation period for non-symptomatic covid patients from 10 days to five.

"Omicron accounts for about 58 to 59 percent of the total new case reported in the Lower 48 and so that's it Omar Conn itself is we know that it is more transmissible than Delta but also has a shorter infectious period it incubation period And what I mean by incubation period is a length of time between when you get exposed and then you start to show signs of symptoms or you have a positive test or you could otherwise pass it on to someone else and that's why cdc's come out with the shorter recommendations," Carroll said.

The federal government has been shipping at-home covid tests all around the nation, and they’re available at the SPH Bartlett Street Covid Clinic. Carroll was asked about the efficacy of the at-home tests, and Ferraro reminded us that SPH is ready to test every day except New Year’s Day.

"What we do know about at home test is the its ability to indicate if the SARS Co-V2 viruses there or not is a little less effective than like, if you're to drive up to the the testing side itself Peninsula Hospital or to call your doctor that being said, if you do get a positive at home, you should certainly consider that a positive and call your doctor if you have any signs and symptoms," Carroll said.

"Part of the value of the at-home test Nationwide in even worldwide is because access to testing in other communities and States isn't as easy and accessible as it is right here in Homer and because seven days a week nine to six nine am to 6 PM seven days a week. You can come get tested by professionals and it will get processed in our laboratory and there's not as much reason to rely on the home testing in like a community like ours that offers seven days a week testing. So I would just encourage folks other than New Year's Day when we will be closed. I would just encourage folks to utilize the service that is right here as opposed to relying on those others," Ferraro said.

Another note for followers of Covid news is that the State of Alaska has reduced the frequency of its regular reports on the number of positive cases, testing and vaccination rates in the state. Instead of daily, the reports are now issued Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

As always, the Covid Brief is posted online and is now available as a podcast on your favorite app.

Jay Barrett, KBBI's new News Director should be a familiar voice to our listeners. He's been contributing to Kenai Peninsula news for the last three years out of KDLL Kenai, and was the voice of The Alaska Fisheries Report from KMXT for 12 years. Jay worked for KBBI about 20 years ago as the Central Peninsula Reporter at KDLL.