COVID-19 cases on the southern Kenai Peninsula are escalating. The State of Alaska is reporting over 1,600 cases on the Peninsula right now, but that number lags days behind the current local totals. Positive cases are growing so rapidly that the State can't keep up. Derotha Ferraro, spokesperson for South Peninsula Hospital says the hospital recently saw its first hospitalized COVID patients since June.
"As of Monday afternoon, we have no patients hospitalized for COVID. But over the last 5 days, we have seen several. We had 4 hospitalized, several ER visits and numerous clinic calls. So we are seeing people who are becoming ill, ill enough to be hospitalized," said Ferraro.
New health mandates issued by the state on Monday afternoon require COVID tests and waiting periods for travelers venturing off the road system in Alaska but community spread is driving up the number of positive cases. Ferraro says the current positivity rate for the Southern Peninsula is 9%.
" In our entire time of reporting out, I don't think we've ever reported higher than about 3.5% What that also means, though, is that the right people are coming in and testing. If you've been exposed to a known positive wait your five days and come in. If you have a symptom, you don't wait your 5 days. You come in," Ferraro said.
The upcoming holidays are traditionally filled with people gathering and eating together. Those are high risk activities since you can't eat with your mask on. The already high positivity rate, combined with holiday season celebrations, creates the conditions for what Ferraro refers to as " a trainwreck." and she encourages the community to adopt safe practices, even if that means changing behavior and making new traditions.
" Celebrating with just your household contacts or your social bubble contacts. Doing it with a mask on. Only take your mask off to eat and you're only doing that if you're already 6 feet apart. We want to have a safe and healthy environment in the hospital to keep our healthcare workers safe and healthy and working," said Ferraro.
COVID Testing is free through South Peninsula Hospital at their building at 4201 Bartlett Street. If you are going in for a test, you can call the hospital at 235-0235 to let them know you're coming in.