September 28 Alert Level Update

Sitka’s current COVID-19 alert level is MODERATE.

The following mitigation guidance is recommended:

  • Masks/face coverings encouraged when: indoor public spaces and 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained from others
  • Masks/face coverings encouraged when: outdoors and 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained from others
  • Maintain physical distancing of 6 feet
  • Outdoor events are encouraged; gatherings of more than 100 people indoors is not recommended
  • Restaurants: indoor capacity reduced to maintain 6 feet of distance, delivery or carryout preferred, employees must mask
  • Bars: indoor capacity reduced to 50%, encourage outdoor serving, employees must mask

To view Sitka data, visit the CBS COVID-19 Dashboard at www.cityofsitka.org. For State of Alaska data, visit https://coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com/.

Additional information on COVID-19 is available through SEARHC at www.covid19.searhc.org and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) at https://covid19.alaska.gov/.

News Release: September 23 Unified Command Weekly Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND MEETS ON A NEW SCHEDULE

SITKA, September 23, 2020 – This week Unified Command celebrated 25 years of emergency response service from their Emergency Manager, Fire Chief Dave Miller.

Incident Commander, John Leach began the meeting by thanking Dave Miller for his 25 years of service to the City and Borough of Sitka. Leach reported few major incidences over the past week. We have first responders in quarantine after an emergency response last Friday, September 18. Discussions are taking place around the efforts of celebrating Halloween and the CDC guidance for community gatherings during this time.

Leach proposes moving Unified Command meetings, during the Low Alert Level, to every other Wednesday. The CBS COVID-19 Dashboard has had a few hiccups that are currently being addressed. The dashboard is located on the CBS COVID-19 Information Center https://cityofsitka.org/.  Additional data points may be added as we collect information.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing reported that she is updating the Dashboard by 5:00 p.m. daily with current information. Department of Health and Social Services stresses to the public if they receive a positive COVID-19 test result, the first step is to call the public health nurse. If asked to quarantine, stay in your home, and quarantine for the full 14 days.

Rob Janik, Planning Section Chief, is working with the Vaccine Teleconference Working Group on the logistics of vaccine delivery. There is no current identified viable vaccine candidate and no expectation that one will be coming soon. They currently meet to plan on the logistics of vaccine delivery throughout the State of Alaska once a vaccine is available.

Dave Miller, Emergency Manager, thanks the City’s first responders for the diligent work and preparation to serve their community during emergencies. He urges all citizens of Sitka to actively plan and be prepared for an emergency and have their 14 -day kit prepared.

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 Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center Testing 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 cityofsitka.org or covid19.searhc.org.

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Sitka Housing Relief

Are you struggling with your mortgage or rent payments due to COVID-19? You may be eligible for up to $1,200 each month from September through December 2020. Applications for housing relief are now being accepted.

Visit https://www.sitkahousingrelief.org/ to understand the program details, determine if you’re eligible, and guide you through the application process. We encourage you to learn more about the program and share with other Sitka residents.

News Release: September 23 Case Count Update

Sitka Unified Command received information from Public Health Officials on one positive test result for COVID-19 in Sitka on Tuesday, September 22.  

Sitka’s positive test count is now at 46 resident cases, 17 non-resident cases, and 1 hospitalization. The State of Alaska is reporting 6,950 cumulative resident cases statewide. Data is provisional and may change.  Please note that occasionally there is a lag between cases being reported on the DHSS data dashboard and what local communities report as details are confirmed and documentation is received.

The confirmed case is a male resident, age 50-59, who was symptomatic and received COVID-19 testing on September 22. Patient is isolating. Public Health Officials have initiated a contact investigation and will notify and isolate additional persons that may have been in contact with this individual as appropriate.

To view more data visit: coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com

Additional information on COVID-19 is available through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) at https://covid19.alaska.gov/ and SEARHC at www.covid19.searhc.org.

News Release: September 21 Case Count Update

Sitka Unified Command received information from Public Health Officials on three positive test results for COVID-19 in Sitka since Friday, September 18.

Sitka’s positive test count is now at 45 resident cases, 17 non-resident cases, and 1 hospitalization. The State of Alaska is reporting 6,836 cumulative resident cases statewide. Data is provisional and may change.  Please note that occasionally there is a lag between cases being reported on the DHSS data dashboard and what local communities report as details are confirmed and documentation is received.

The first confirmed case is a male resident, age 40-49, who is asymptomatic and received COVID-19 testing on September 16. Patient is isolating. Public Health Officials have completed contact investigation and have notified and isolated additional persons that may have been in contact with this individual as appropriate.

The second confirmed case is a female resident, age 50-59, who is symptomatic and received COVID-19 testing on September 18. Patient is isolating. Public Health Officials have initiated a contact investigation and will notify and isolate additional persons that may have been in contact with this individual as appropriate.

The third confirmed case is a male resident, age 40-49, who is symptomatic and received COVID-19 testing on September 18. Patient is isolating. Public Health Officials have completed contact investigation and have notified and isolated additional persons that may have been in contact with this individual as appropriate.

To view more data visit: coronavirus-response-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com

Additional information on COVID-19 is available through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) at https://covid19.alaska.gov/ and SEARHC at www.covid19.searhc.org.

News Release: September 16 Unified Command Weekly Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND TALKS NEW DATA DASHBOARD

SITKA, September 16, 2020 – This week Unifed Command reports on the fine tuning of both the new data dashboard, and the schools Smart Start program.

John Leach, Incident Commander, stated it has been quiet with nothing notable to report.  September 15, Leach sat in on the ICS meeting with SEARHC and reported it was very informative. He was able to present the new data dashboard along with what statistics they will provide in their section. The dashboard is located on the CBS COVID-19 Information Center https://cityofsitka.org/.  Additional data points may be added as we collect information.

Leach reported for John Holst, Superintendent of Sitka School District, stating they continue to work on fine tuning their protocols. Dr. Bruhl has been helpful with returning students who have exhibited COVID-19 symptoms. SEARHC has been instrumental in removing barriers for parents without healthcare insurance to arrange testing for their children. Visit the District website, https://www.sitkaschools.org/, for more information.

Jessica Ieremia, Public Information Officer, shared the community has given positive feedback about the visibility of the alert level being on display outside the firehall.

Thor Christianson, Logistics Operations, recommends starting a list of items to be purchased in December.

Leach reported for Melissa Haley, Finance Section Chief, noting the City is moving away from FEMA and shifting expenses to CARES Act.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing reported on local case numbers. She also shared that the State of Alaska has hired a new RN for contract tracing who is located in Sitka.

Janelle Vanasse, Mt. Edgecumbe Superintendent, stated the school has shifted into low risk status and kids now have access to going into town along with the addition of a couple other activities. The school has created a Visitor Center for deliveries. It is located at what used to be the maintenance building. The front office is used as a check-in for drop-off of books, food, and other items. Visitors can see students but have to maintain a 6-foot distance.

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 Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center Testing 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 cityofsitka.org or covid19.searhc.org.

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DHSS Alaska Weekly COVID-19 Case Update for September 6-12

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Weekly Case Analysis 

September 6-12, 2020

Note: DHSS has revised the format of the weekly case update to be more concise, readable and to better highlight trends in data. The most up-to-date data, including data for individual communities with a population of >1000, are always available in full on the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub.  

Case trends and predictions

  • Overall, new cases in Alaska are increasing. The daily state case rate as of September 12, 2020 is 8.7 cases per 100,000 people averaged over the last 14 days. This is up from 7.9 last week and 7.0 the week before, so the state alert level for this past week remained at intermediate (orange).
  • The reproductive number, a measure of contagion, has increased to 1.02 and is projected to continue to increase slightly. A reproductive number of 1.02 means that each person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 gives it on average to slightly more than one other person. A reproductive number of more than 1 means that the epidemic is growing. The goal is to have enough people wear masks, stay at least 6 feet from others, and stay home and get tested when they are sick, so that Alaska’s reproductive number decreases to well below 1. Our reproductive number was below 1 as recently as late August. 
  • An updated model epidemic curve now predicts Alaska’s cases to rise over the next week, a reversal in trend from recent weeks when cases had been predicted to decrease. Two weeks ago, cases were expected to halve every 75 days. One week ago, cases were expected to halve more slowly, every 210 days. As of this week, cases are now expected to double every 62 days, with a daily projected growth rate of 1.12%. 
  • Nonresident cases, which peaked in late July, decreased over August and continue to downtrend. 
  • Alaska continues to have both the fewest COVID-19 related deaths and the fewest COVID-19 related deaths per capita of any US state. 

Regional trends

  • Fairbanks North Star Borough has the highest rate of viral transmission with a case rate of 17.1, an increase from 13.7 last week and 10.8 a week before. 
  • Juneau City and Borough had the most quickly rising rate of viral transmission. Juneau more than doubled its case rate to 13.4 from 6.3 last week and 5.1 the week before.
  • Anchorage Municipality and the Northwest Region both remain in the high transmission category but have improved slightly from last week. 
  • The Southwest Region’s case rate nearly doubled but remains in the low community transmission category.
  • Other regions’ case rates downtrended this week.

Regional case trends

alert levels
alert levels map

New cases, hospitalizations and deaths

  • This week saw 513 new cases in Alaskans, a slight decrease from last week’s 541 new cases, for a total of 6,278 cumulative cases in Alaskans. 4,110 of those are considered active, or 65%, an increase from 63% last week, as only 2,168 Alaskans are thought to have recovered or completed their isolation period. 
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 246 with 14 new this week, slightly fewer than the increase of 17 last week.
  • Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 2 to 44 total. 
  • There were 24 nonresident cases identified this week, for a total of 915. 

How COVID-19 spreads in Alaska

  • The majority of new infections among Alaskans are from community spread, not from travel. Most Alaskans get the virus from someone they work, socialize, or go to school with.
  • Many cases do not have a clear source, meaning that contact tracers have not been able to identify where the person got the virus. This could mean that there are cases in our communities that we do not know about. 
  • Many Alaskans who are diagnosed with COVID-19 report that they went to social gatherings, community events, church services and other social venues while they were contagious but before they knew they had the virus.
  • The distribution of cases among people of different races and ethnicities has not changed significantly since last week.
  • Cases continue to increase most rapidly in young adult Alaskans, especially those aged 20-29. 

Distribution of cases compared to population distribution and distribution of cases, hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity

Includes data from all cases reporting one or more races. Based on these data, American Indian and Alaska Native as well as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations are disproportionately affected. One factor limiting interpretation is that a greater proportion of tests from the Alaska Native Tribal Health system currently have race indicated than tests from other sources, which may mean that cases in Alaska Native People are more likely to be reported as such than cases in people who receive care through non-tribal health systems. However, this should not significantly impact Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population case counts. Currently, cases in this population are nearly five times what would be expected based on estimated population (6.9% vs 1.4%). 

If race or ethnicity is not identified with the initial test, contact tracers will attempt to collect this information, but these data are often delayed resulting in many cases (currently 2,889, or 45%) still labeled under investigation. Additionally, people who are hospitalized or have died with COVID-19 are more likely to have a race identified.

Race Percent of Alaska population*Number of casesPercent of cases of those for whom a race is knownIn cases of that race, percent who were/are hospitalizedIn cases of that race, percent who have died
American Indian and Alaska Native15.6%108431%6.4% 1.5% 
Asian6.5%1464.2%8.9% 2.1% 
Black/African American3.7%2086%3.8% 0%
Hispanic ethnicity**7.3%2978.6%4.4%0.3%
Multiple races7.5%2126.1%1.9%0%
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander1.4%2356.8%19% 2.2% 
White65.3%1,39540.3%5.2%1.3%
Other 184 3.8% 0%
Unknown or not yet identified 2,889 1.0% 0.1%
All cases for which a race is known 3,464 6.2%1.2%
All cases 6,353 3.9% 0.7%

*Based on US Census Bureau 2019 estimates: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/AK

**By federal convention, ethnicity is not mutually exclusive of race, so cases identifying Hispanic ethnicity are also counted under a race category.  

Testing trends

  • Testing increased at a steady rate throughout May, June and July, but starting in mid-August, increases have slowed.
  • Alaska has the capacity to continue expanding testing. DHSS can assist in materials for setting up new testing sites and is pursuing all avenues for expanding testing. 

Positivity rates

  • The statewide test positivity rate, calculated by dividing the number of positive tests by the total number of tests performed over a given period of time, averaged over the past seven days, held steady at 2% this last week. Statewide test positivity has not been above 3% since April, and has never exceeded 3.5%. 
  • This is significantly better than the current national average test positivity rate of 4.8%. In comparison to other states, Alabama currently has a positivity rate of 16.4% and South Dakota, 16.6%, while New York, which peaked at 50.7% in early April, has greatly expanded testing since then and currently has a positivity rate of 0.9%. Source: Johns Hopkins
  • Reported test positivity rate is currently highest in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, with a rate of 5.3%. It exceeded 5% on 9/10/2020. 
  • Test positivity is a good measure of whether testing is adequate in a given area, since it is affected by the number of tests performed as well as the number of new cases in an area. However, because it depends so much on the number of tests performed, it tells us more about whether we are doing enough testing than about how much virus is spreading in a community. A case rate can give good information about how much virus is spreading in a community, as long as the test positivity is low. A community test positivity rate under 5% is currently generally accepted as being low enough to estimate that a community’s case rate is reasonably accurate.  
  • In late August, Alaska led the nation in most tests per capita and continues to be among the top 3 states in tests per capita. 

Health care capacity

Hospital bed occupancy statewide remains steady. Hospitalizations peaked in early August and have plateaued since then. Ventilator capacity remains adequate overall. Hospital data includes inpatient beds and ventilators located all around the state, including some in smaller hospitals without ICU capacity. Hospital beds do not necessarily represent staffed beds, as staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19. 

What Alaskans should do 

  • Anyone with even one new symptom of COVID-19 (fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea), even if it is very mild, should get tested for COVID-19 right away. Tests are most accurate in the first few days of symptoms, and if the test is positive, getting tested right away helps contact tracers move as quickly as possible. 
  • Alaskans can help contact tracers work to slow the spread of COVID-19 by answering the phone promptly if contacted and providing accurate information.
  • Alaskans should avoid gatherings, wear masks when around any non-household member, keep six feet of distance from anyone not in their household and wash hands frequently to slow community transmission of COVID-19.

Further information

COVID-19 FAQ: How Common Are False Positives?

Q: How common are false positives?
A: False positives are unlikely for the molecular diagnostic tests that diagnose COVID-19. This is because these tests work by detecting genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 is different than the genetic material from other viruses, so the COVID-19 diagnostic test is highly specific. Usually claims of “false positives” occur when someone tests positive without symptoms and then soon tests again – and the test is negative. This doesn’t mean either test is wrong. People are not chronically infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s normal and expected to go from testing positive back to testing negative. For more information visit: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/testing.aspx?fbclid=IwAR2wGFXUr5zO1nAtRYAG0Nke7icW6Rl1PvpsQ9X11b5Rj21dKKZCv3WBGLs