News Release: Unified Command talks operations at weekly meeting

SITKA, July 23, 2020 – Incident Command operations and the school district reopening were the main topics of discussion at the latest meeting of the Sitka Unified Command.

As cases continue to climb throughout the state, Incident Commander John Leach shared an update on the city’s response. While not a public process, the public information officers are available to provide updates and answer questions on the emergency operations. Leach reviewed the roles and duties of personnel within the incident command and unified command. Each role is vital to the function of the operation and Leach reviewed activity briefings that are required at each meeting.

Leach reported that the request to the State of Alaska for 30,000 cloth masks was denied, due to no supply remaining. Another potential source has been requested. The first request for patient isolation funds was received in the past week and denied by FEMA as “not qualifying”.

John Holst, Sitka School District Superintendent, shared that the district is very close to releasing the plan for the 20/21 school year. Additional community listening sessions will be held Thursday, July 30, 11-1 at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Information will be available to the public. Visit the districts website,, for more information.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing detailed the weekly confirmed cases throughout the state. Ewing said there were 2,132 cumulative cases in the state, including one new death (19 total cumulative deaths statewide) in the past week.

Conversations regarding the possible ending of the national health emergency by FEMA and the impact on the city’s requests for public assistance and funding was reported by Finance Chief Jay Sweeney. Sitka was the first in the state to request public assistance and the request was approved in March. Sitka has submitted one project in the incident period and has incurred reimbursement for expenses. Sitka is creating a second project to be eligible for reimbursement.

Sitka Unified Command urges citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others and keeping your social circle small. In addition, stay home if you feel ill, wear a face covering when around others, and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces on a regular basis.

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu – fever, aching, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and sometimes decreased sense of taste and smell. If you are concerned you might have contracted the coronavirus contact the COVID hotline at 966.8799 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  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. 

Free COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic patients is available every weekend. Residents can receive a self-swab nasal test between the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at the Mountainside Family Clinic alternative test site, no appointment necessary. For more information, contact the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline at 966.8799. Results are available in approximately seven (7) days.

The Emergency Operations Center encourages residents to prepare for any local emergency by ensuring each family member has a 14- day emergency supply kit, including any necessary medications.

For information on the local pandemic response, visit or

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