COVID Update: Seasonal flu shots and household grants

Sep 29, 2020

Homer City Council, from left: Donna Aderhold, Caroline Venuti, Heath Smith, Mayor Ken Castner, Storm Hansen Cavasos, Rachel Lord and Joey Evensen.
Credit City of Homer

The COVID-19 Incident Comand Team delivered their regular report to Homer City Council at Monday night's meeting. Fire and EMT Chief Mark Kirko told council he's been meeting with the city manager to to set up a plan for the City to reopen council chambers to the public. 

"I do want to say that you can expect something coming soon. If it's not prepared for you tonight then you will see it in the near future. Probably at the next meeting we'll have metrics of some sort of what that might look like as you move forward," said Chief Kirko

  Case numbers have been low on the Southern Peninsula. According the Derotha Ferraro, spokesperson for South Peninsula Hospital, SPH has confirmed only one case in the last two weeks. According to State records, only four cases, total, were confirmed positive on the Southern Peninsula over the last 14 days. This has resulted in the hospital dismantling their alternate care site at a church on Bartlett Street. Next week, on October 6, they'll move their COVID testing site away from the hospital building  to 4201 Bartlett Street. The site will be testing  seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ferraro says, it will be a walk-up testing site.

  "A person would first register at the left window and then go to the right window for their swab kit and the nurse will witness the swabbing, then they'll pass it back through the window and then they'll leave. If for any reason a person is unable to do that, then the nurse will go to the car," said Ferraro.

 All the Incident Command Team members stressed the importance of getting a flu shot this season. Ferraro said the State has not yet sent this season's flu shots to the hospital, but shots are already available through some local health care providers and at Safeway. Nurse Lorne Carroll spoke about the difference between treating COVID and treating the seasonal flu.

"In terms of seasonal influenza vaccine and disease, the advantage we have there is several decades of history.The particular influenza viruses that are circulating on planet earth tend to come around so we have time to anticipate those and we have time to create a new version of an old vaccine to help continue protecting folks - or decreasing the pools of susceptible people.  And that's what sets it aside from COVID. COVID popped up and it is unique and there is no vaccine that can help us with that at this point," Nurse Lorne Carroll said.
 
 Jenny Carroll, Public Information Officer for the City of Homer, spoke to council at the  Committee of the Whole meeting about the Household CARES ACT funding, or HBERG grants. Homer residents can apply to receive up to $1,500 per household to offset expenses incurred as a result of the virus.  At Committee of the Whole, councilmember Venuti discussed emails and calls she recieved from community members, asking that household grants be evenly distributed to the whole community instead of requiring people to apply and prove need for the money. Carroll said, that isn't in line with the federal requirements for the funds.

 "I just wanted to give a staff reccommendation to Caroline Venuti's recommendation. There is very specific language in the federal treasury guidelines that a per-capita distribution, not based on needs is against the CARES Act legislation.  I know there is another community in Alaska that has done that but as your CARES Act coordinator, I would give you that feedback as policy makers, that that is specifiacally called out in Treasury guidelines," Jenny Carrol said.
 
 The deadline to apply for HBERG household grants is Friday, October 16. Applications are available now on the City of Homer's website and at Homer City Hall.