Changes to COVID-19 testing on the lower Kenai Peninsula may reduce reported case rates
COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb across the lower Kenai Peninsula. But local public health officials say changes that went into effect Friday morning might discourage people from testing.
That's according to South Peninsula Hospital’s Derotha Ferraro and Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll, who explored recent changes to testing during KBBI’s COVID Brief on Thursday.
Ferraro said for the week ending June 28, there were 23 visits to the emergency room and two new admissions related to COVID.
After conducting a total of 424 tests, 83 produced a positive result, setting the local positivity rate at 20%, up from last week’s 19%.
The lower Kenai Peninsula has been able to report relatively robust case rates compared to other parts of Alaska, largely due to the availability of free daily testing, according to Ferraro.
But in the coming weeks, a new change to protocols may lead to a decrease in reported cases. The Bartlett Street COVID testing site began charging for tests Friday.
While that may discourage people from testing, Ferraro said there are options.
“For testing, we will be billing insurance," she said. "If you are uninsured or underinsured, we will offer just a $50 flat fee for folks. You can pay that at time of testing or we'll send you an invoice for that. But the majority of folks will have insurance that will cover the cost of the test."
The hospital reported there were 36 COVID vaccines administered last week. Ferraro said vaccinations are offered by appointment, free of charge.
Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll said 83 people are currently hospitalized with COVID in Alaska.
While no one is on ventilators, there are only about 300 non-ICU adult beds available out of 1,200. Carroll said that puts a lot of strain on the state's health care system.
“Another thing I want to highlight is that compared to two weeks ago, we're up 50%. So that's a significant increase in new cases of COVID-19 in Alaska," he said. "So [we] want to keep an eye on that. The take home here is there's quite a bit of COVID activity throughout the state."
Ferraro said the recent spike of COVID cases is tied to the large influx of visitors to the state for the busy summer season.
You can visit the Alaska COVID dashboard at dhss.alaska.gov to get current, local information.
To hear the full conversation with Ferraro and Carroll, click here.