Outside the walls of Central Peninsula Hospital, in local parks, restaurants and bars, life is going on without masks or social distancing.
But the coronavirus spike inside the hospital shows the virus is hardly a thing of the past.
On Sunday, the hospital had three patients on ventilators. Now, they have just one — after one died and another was transferred to Seattle for further care.
Central Peninsula Hospital’s emergency department is overloaded with COVID-19 cases this July, for the first time since the pandemic spiked last winter. And a lot of the people who are coming in are really sick, likely from the more contagious Delta variant.
Hospital Spokesperson Bruce Richards said he doesn’t think it’s something most people are thinking about.
"You know, it kind of feels like the people outside of the hospital, they’re kind of going about their daily lives — they're kind of tuning a lot of this out," he said.
Those hospital cases are rising with case counts locally. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has seen almost 300 new reported cases of COVID in the last two weeks.
It’s an abrupt shift from this spring, when case rates in the borough and the hospital dropped off dramatically. Richards said most days, they’d have one or even no patients getting treated for the virus in the hospital.
Now, there are 11 people in the hospital for COVID-19. Richards said the highest number they’ve had since the pandemic started is 16.
Richards said all three patients who were on ventilators were unvaccinated. Some of the patients come from the same family.
“Clearly we’re seeing a lot more clusters amongst family members, as well," he said. "That’s not something we saw in the past.”
The Kenai Peninsula Borough has reported just over 20 deaths from COVID-19 since last year. Richards said the man who died Monday morning was in his 70s.
And Richards said there are more young people coming in.
"I’m seeing inpatients in their 40s, one that was in their 20s, and the remainder are in the 60 and older category," he said. "So, we’re definitely seeing sicker young people.”
It’s all putting a strain on hospital services. Richards said they’re seeing more people in the emergency department than they’re used to.
This is not the first time the hospital’s been overwhelmed by COVID-19. The hospital filled its surge space with coronavirus patients last winter, as case rates spiked locally and nationally. That spike included an outbreak at the hospital-operated Heritage Place eldercare facility, where four residents died.