SITKA, March 20, 2020 –The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), the City and Borough of Sitka (CBS) and the Sitka Fire Department met within the Unified Command Structure this week to share information and resources regarding the coronavirus threat. Sitka has yet to see any confirmed cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19.

On Sunday, the CBS declared a local emergency. Alaska Governor Dunleavy continues to issue mandates on state-wide restrictions, including on restaurants and bars, eliminating dine-in and drink-in options. CBS Administrator John Leach stated that the City has published a COVID information website and sharing information through the city’s social media channels. “It’s crucial that the community follows state and local health mandates for the good of the community.  Protect your neighbor and most importantly stay healthy,” said Leach.

Dr. Elliot Bruhl, SEARHC Vice-President and Chief Medical Officer, shared that SEARHC providers continue to receive updates to the COVID-19 screening protocols based on the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). An alternate screening site was open on March 19, and patients were tested in their vehicles for both influenza and COVID-19. “By opening an alternate screening site, we are increasing levels of safety for both patients and staff,” said Bruhl.

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to those of the flu – fever, aching, cough, and shortness of breath. If you are concerned you might have contracted the coronavirus, don’t panic, as the flu or another respiratory virus is still the most likely cause.  Contact your healthcare provider for advice.  If you choose to visit an emergency department, call ahead to alert staff of your coronavirus concerns and request a mask be brought out to you prior to entering to reduce the risk of exposure. For health questions or COVID concerns, please call the COVID hotline at 966.8799.  Outside of normal clinic hours, patients can contact the SEARHC 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 1.800.613.0560 to be triaged by a registered nurse. 

The Command group urges residents adhere to all local, state and federal mandates encouraging social distancing throughout the pandemic. Patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, cancer or immune compromise, should contact their doctor immediately or visit the MEMC emergency room if they become ill, while healthy people should self-isolate at home if they become sick.

Residents are encouraged to prepare for any local emergency by ensuring each family member has a 14- day emergency supply kit, including any necessary medications.

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