Tuesday COVID-19 Update: Opening City Hall, testing on the Spit and in Nikolaevsk

Jun 2, 2020

Credit CDC

Business and offices all over the Peninsula are reopening after months of mandated closures. Jenny Carroll, Communications Officer for the City of Homer says the City is not quite ready to open City Hall. She says they are putting safeguards in place to make sure the public can safely access City services and meetings.

“Well, we are making a plan where eventually in the next week or two, we'll be open at least upstairs in the main entrance of city hall and then downstairs in the clerks area, that public reception area and in Cowles Chamber,” said Carroll.

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 continues to rise. The State of Alaska had its largest jump ever in case numbers this weekend. Here’s DHSS Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll with the numbers.

“Here in the state of Alaska, we're at 467 cases. And about 79% of those have recovered so far at 47 have been hospitalized so far and we've experienced 10 deaths to date. Then moving further down the peninsula, closer to home. We've had 11 up in Kenai, three cases in Seward, eight and Soldotna and three in Sterling.

We've had three reported, in Anchor Point so far, 10 in  Homer,  Kenai, Peninsula Borough, Other is reported as nine. And I expect that a portion of those will be Southern Kenai Peninsula," Said Nurse Carroll.

Those numbers were correct as of 5 p.m. Monday, June 1, but Nurse Carroll says, we should expect numbers to rise every day. Community spread of the disease is increasing and summer tourism is ramping up. Also, increased testing means increased cases confirmed.

Derotha Ferraro, spokesperson for South Peninsula Hospital says to remember that every new positive COVID-19 result is not necessarily a new person with the virus. In order for people with COVID-19 to be classified as recovered, they must test negative for the virus and some people have to take the test multiple times before they receive a negative result.

South Peninsula Hospital set up a mobile testing station at the boathouse pavilion on the Homer Spit last week. At first, anyone with a photo ID, an email address, a phone number and a social security number could get a test, but overwhelming demand caused the hospital to restrict testing again.

“We want to reach the individuals working in critical infrastructure. It could be anything from a water taxi operator or staff, HEA, the harbor, truck driver, fishing industry, anybody associated with fishing, anyone who has recent travel out of state, anybody who's been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or anyone who has signs and symptoms.
So this is still a pretty big net,” Ferraro said.

The Hospital will continue to test on the Homer Harbor, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday, June 13 - except for Wednesdays. This Wednesday, they’ll be at the fire hall in Nikolaevsk, from 9 to 5, conducting tests. Testing in Nikolaevsk will not be restricted, anyone with proper ID, phone number and email can get a free COVID test.

SPH will return to the Homer Harbor on Thursday, June 4 to test through June 13.
Ferraro says SPH is partnering with Seldovia Village Tribe Health Center to set up a mobile testing site next Wednesday, June 10, as well. The location has not yet been determined.

Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll says the most important thing that people can do right now is wear a mask, maintain a safe social distance and quarantine after traveling.

“COVID is transmitting through our community right now as we speak. So right now it'd be a really great time to ask yourself what can I do to stay connected with others, but also prevent the transmission of COVID throughout our community."

Members of the Homer COVID-19 Incident Command Team answer listener questions live on KBBI every Thursday morning from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m. If you have a question for the panel, email it to kathleen@kbbi.org