COVID Update: Dec. 01, 2020 - 8% positivity rate in Homer and holiday travel recommendations

Dec 2, 2020

Credit CDC

As of Monday afternoon, there were 101 new COVID-19 cases identified in the last 7 days on the Southern Kenai Peninsula. Many of those through testing at South Peninsula Hospital.

Hospital tests marked an over 8% positivity rate for the week. The total number of cases
identified through SPH, to date, is 370.

And that's just on tests performed at the hospital drive-up site on Bartlett Street. Many local health care providers administer tests for the virus and report their data to the Alaska
Department of Health and Social Services which is currently reporting the total number of
cases on the Southern Kenai Peninsula as 433. But, the State's numbers routinely lag a week behind in their data due to the increased workload associated with rapidly rising cases.

Community transmission, travel, holiday gatherings and the general lack of vigilance we all
now call COVID Fatigue, have all contributed to the rising rate of positive cases on the Kenai  Peninsula. Hospital spokesperson Derotha Ferraro says that staffing the hospital right now involves workers rotating through quarantine for a variety of reasons..

"Today, as we speak ,we have 27 employees represeting by seven different departments that are out for COVID related absences. So, tomorrow ten of those 27 people get to return to work. Anything from testing positive, a close contact to someone who tested positive, having symptoms but you haven't gotten your test results, maybe having a family that needs your care at home. Maybe you just traveled," said Ferraro.
 

State Department of Epidemiology data indicate that case counts and demand for care and resources are trending upward and will continue to rise in the coming weeks.

In preparation, South Peninsula Hospital has filed an update to their COVID treatment plan. They're preparing to double up beds in some of the rooms, and to modify some surgery and recovery areas to increase patient capacity. Also, the hospital's alternate care site is still ready to mobilize at the Christian Community Church gymnasium on Bartlett Street.

"But we aren't near that right now. On any given day, if we're only treating one or two COVID patients, then we have adequate supplies at this moment," Ferraro said.
 

Holiday season means people are and will be traveling and gathering...and spreading the
virus. The State of Alaska has repeatedly declined to mandate mask wearing but they have issued Health Order 8 - recommendations regarding travel to communities off the road system. Jenny Carroll, Information Officer for the City of Homer, says that Part A of the order gives remote communities the authority to restrict travel by non-residents who are not essential workers. Part B of the order requires anyone traveling to communities off the road system to take a COVID test on arrival and quarantine until they achieve a negative result.

" That's a really good practice for anyone traveling, even those of us who are on the road system. You know, all areas of the State are at alert level red.  Which means high rates of community transmission. If people are traveling within Alaska out of Homer's airport. Masks are required in the terminal building.  And if you're waiting for a departure, or waiting for an arrival flight, remain in your cars in the parking lot so we can minimize that time where people are in contact with each other," Carroll said.
 

Homer's COVID-19 Incident Command Team answers your questions live on KBBI every
Thursday morning from 9 to 9:30 a.m. If you have any questions for representatives from the Homer Public Health Department, the City of Homer, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District or South Peninsula Hospital, you can call-in or email on Thursday morning or email your questions ahead of time to kathleen@kbbi.org.