The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine are expected in Homer within the next two weeks. Derotha Ferraro, spokesperson for South Peninsula Hospital says, vaccines and the protective equipment for administering them are on the way from the State of Alaska.
"When the vaccine arrives for the healthcare employees as well as residents of long-term care, the shipment contains all the PPE for safe dispensing of the vaccine. So, we will not have to use any of our gloves or masks or anything," said Ferraro.
This Monday, only five SPH employees were out of work due to COVID. Ferraro says, the new CDC guidelines are helping keep staff at work. The recommended number of quarantine days for a person who has had close contact with a positive case but is not showing symptoms, has been reduced from 14 to 10 days.
Increasing COVID case numbers mean that the hospital has to focus on maintaining a level of care for non-COVID patients. Sometimes that requires transferring patients to other hospitals for care. SPH treats a few patients a day for COVID, but Ferraro says, they've been lucky. South Peninsula Hospital is not yet near its capacity for patients, she says. Although Central Peninsula Hospital and Anchorage-area hospitals are near capacity, as of Monday, they were still potentially accepting transfers from other hospitals for
"So far we have not yet received any divert notifications from other hospitals meaning that the possibility for us to transfer has , so far, remained that way. When I looked at hospital capacity in Anchorage today, they did have capacity. But, it changes day to day and hour to hour," Ferraro said.
As of Monday, there are 483 reported cases in the hospital service area, including Anchor Point, Fritz Creek, Homer and outlying areas, and 2,810 cases confirmed on the Kenai Peninsula. Nurse Lorne Carroll from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services says the numbers are an imperfect representation COVID in the community, but they do place the Kenai Peninsula, and the State of Alaska, at Alert Level Red as determined by DHSS.
"Alert Level Red means over 10 cases per 100,000 population. That means there is widespread community transmission, with many undetected cases and really frequent and perhaps discrete outbreaks - ones that we really can't connect to other outbreaks," said Carroll.
If you are having COVID-19 symptoms: cough, fatigue, fever, chills, difficulty breathing, headache, muscle or joint aches, nausea, rash, diarrhea, decreased sense of smell or taste, runny nose, sore throat, or the sudden onset of any new, unexplained symptom, contact your health care provider for an assessment and test.
South Peninsula Hospital offers free drive-up testing at it's facility at 4201 Bartlett Street. The results take about 5 days to come back. To find out about test eligibility and quarantine periods for people exposed to the virus or showing symptoms, call the SPH COVID Line . The number is (907) 235-0235.