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Hospital is hopeful about lower case rates

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The state’s disaster declaration has expired and officials are still scratching their heads over what that means, exactly. 

One effect is that Central Peninsula Hospital no longer has the authority to have a surge space of extra beds. The hospital is licensed for 49 beds but during the peak of the pandemics was sometimes filling 62, said hospital CEO Rick Davis at last night’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting. 

But, he said, that’s OK.

“We just don’t have a problem with overflow right now," he said. "If some of these new strains end up coming back, we would be in trouble there.”

That’s because there aren’t very many COVID-19 cases in the hospital right now. Last fall, during the post-Thanksgiving surge, the hospital turned to its overflow space as cases spiked locally. That surge was coupled with an outbreak at Heritage Place, the hospital’s eldercare facility, and severe staffing shortages.

That’s not the case anymore, said hospitalist Danny Hyman.

“Fortunately, it’s a lot better than it was at the end of last year," he said. "Our number of COVID patients in the hospital is way down, comparatively. And we’re seeing more of the more common reasons for hospitalization, as opposed to the COVID. We do still have COVID patients coming in, so certainly it is going around, but not at the rate that it was.”

Some days, they don’t have any patients in the hospital who are sick with COVID-19.

Tides, of course, could still turn. But Davis said he’s hoping the worst has passed.

“I’m knocking on every piece of wood I walk by that that trend continues," he said.

Separately, another effect of the disaster declaration lapse is that there’s no more curbside pickup for Alaska alcohol businesses, at least for now.

Through its emergency powers, the state temporarily authorized alcohol vendors to do emergency curbside and home delivery. Marijuana dispensaries were granted similar permission.

That went away with the end of the declaration. The Alaska Legislature could revive those provisions later. But at least locally, there doesn't seem to be much demand.

Kenai River Brewing Company, for example, was filling curbside orders earlier in the pandemic, but has largely pivoted now that its taproom is open and it can fill to-go orders there. Cooper Landing Brewing Company said on its Facebook page today that it’s also offering to-go service from its taproom and is no longer doing curbside.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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