"Just do it responsibly" - visiting Kenai Peninsula after recent spike

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Nine new cases were reported on the Kenai Peninsula between Thursday and Friday in various locations including Homer, Kenai, Soldotna, and others too small to be named. Dr. Anne Zink said in a town hall Thursday that they were being investigated, and it calls for concern to community spread.

While it's arguably the best time of year for Alaskans to go down to the Kenai for various recreation activities, various entities said that people still should - especially with fewer tourists this season - but to be smart about it.

In the Kenai Borough Emergency Management office, Dan Nelson said the borough communities have been anticipating more cases and have been preparing while we continue to reopen the state.

"I don't think there's any reason to stay away from the Kenai," he said, "We have a beautiful place to recreate and do all of those great outdoors things. We just want to make sure people are doing that in a safe way."

To do so, he echoed the guidelines that have been going out since the pandemic started. Practice good hygiene, stay six feet apart from people that don't live with you, and stay home if you're sick.

In Homer, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, Brad Anderson said businesses on the peninsula feel prepared to operate and keep visitors and staff safe despite the handful of new cases.

On a board meeting Thursday, he described the overall reaction to the recent spike.

"The general feeling was that we expected to see an increase because we've been testing a lot more people in the community and as we opened up businesses we've had a tremendous amount of Alaskans come down to start vacationing," Anderson said.

In fact, he said there were more people in Homer for Memorial Day weekend than there were last year. He said it looked more like the size of the standard Fourth of July crowd.

Anderson added that there were no talks of going back to stricter business guidelines or limiting customers for the sake of health safety.

Even Kenai Public Health, who handles the cases on behalf of the state on the Peninsula, said people should still enjoy the area, but with caution.

Nursing Manager, Leslie Felps, said it's obvious that the state isn't done with coronavirus, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy other places in Alaska.

Channel 2 reporters asked Felps if it would be better for people to stay away strictly from a health standpoint.

"Oh gosh I would never say something like that. We all want to have lives and do things," she said, "You know we all travel both directions, some of us are going up to Anchorage for various reasons and no I'd never say something like that. I think we can all enjoy the summer and enjoy the fishing, enjoy all the beauty we have in this state and just do it responsibly."

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