News Release: September 30 Unified Command Weekly Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND URGES EVERY CITIZEN TO BE A COMMUNITY PARTNER AND DO THEIR PART

SITKA, September 30, 2020 – This week Unified Command discussed flu vaccination clinics, what the community can do to help keep the schools open and where to receive the latest local COVID-19 updates.

Incident Commander, John Leach reiterated Unified Command would meet weekly while in Moderate Alert Level and twice a week in High Alert Level. The work Unified Command has put into creating mitigation plans at the different Alert Levels has been executed successfully. There has not been a lot of panic with the change in our Alert Levels from Low to Moderate.

Dr. Bruhl, SEARHC Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Incident Commander of Unified Command stated SEARHC is working to support the City and Borough of Sitka, Emergency Medical Services, Mt. Edgecumbe High School, & the Sitka School District. There’s been an increase in testing capacity which will improve turnaround time for tests in addition to the former rapid Abbott test. We’ve had several patients in the hospital and in medical isolation that have been sent in from outside the Sitka area. 

SEARHC Marketing Director Maegan Bosak reported that asymptomatic testing continues to be popular. This past Saturday was the busiest day of testing with 180 patients being received at the testing site.  SEARHC is preparing for oncoming flu season. They are very concerned that the flu season combined with COVID-19 will have a significant impact on our schools and businesses. SEARHC will be hosting a community wide flu clinic on Saturday, October 10 from 10am to 2pm at Harrigan Hall. There will be walk-in and drive thru options available.  SEARHC has a goal to vaccinate 60% of the community with the flu vaccine.

John Holst, Sitka School District Superintendent thanked SEARHC for their support. The School District is hosting a flu vaccination clinic for their staff and considering a clinic, with parent approval for students. The District had a staff member test positive for COVID-19 on September 25. The school worked closely with the Public Health Nurse for contract tracing and issued a letter to Blatchley parents to address concerns. The School District is well prepared to respond in this situation. Staff was alerted on September 29 regarding the uptick in COVID-19 cases of the past 5-6 days and plans for moving forward with virtual instruction if necessary. Holst urged community members to continue to take the pandemic seriously and practice mitigation strategies to help keep the schools open. Community behavior directly impacts what happens at our schools.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing shared that SEARHC is directly reporting positive cases to her for quick turnaround. This enables her to connect with a positive patient quickly and conduct contact tracing to reduce the transmission rate in the community. Ewing spoke favorably of the COVID-19 Dashboard. If there are organizations in our community that will benefit from having a flu vaccine Point of Distribution (POD), to please contact her at 907-747-3255 to set one up. 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.

Jessica Ieremia and Sara Peterson, COVID-19 Public Information Officers urges the community to visit the COVID-19 dashboard to get the latest updated local information for our community. The dashboard is located on the CBS COVID-19 Information Center https://cityofsitka.org/.  Additional data points may be added as we collect information.

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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