News Release: December 16 Unified Command Weekly Meeting



SITKA, December 16, 2020

Incident Commander, John Leach reported on his discussion with Southeast Alaskan communities on the 2021 cruise ship industry. Leach said the draft of a centralized Smartsheet showing specific metrics for each community has been created and will continue to be developed.  The Coast Guard is participating telephonically in the meeting today because SEARHC is looking for assistance in getting vaccines to some of the communities they serve due to inclement weather occurring within their delivery timeframe. Coast Guard Commander, Brian McLaughlin explained to Unified Command the request, authorization and execution process for assistance in delivery to these communities.

Jay Sweeney, Finance Section Chief is waiting for information from FEMA on the June project. The August project is being loaded into the portal and staff is working on getting the September project into the system.

Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing reviewed case counts for Alaska and reminded us that our alert level remains high statewide. Vaccines have started to arrive in Sitka and today we are starting Phase I in Sitka with EMS, first responders, and healthcare workers. While the vaccine has arrived, Sitkans will still need to practice COVID-19 mitigation guidelines to keep each other safe.

Trish White, Pharmacist announced they are beginning Phase 1 vaccinations today for EMT Sitka Firehall, Sitka Police, Alaska State Troopers, Guardian Medic First Responders, and healthcare workers not covered under SEARHC from 4-8 pm at the Firehall.  White thanked EMS, Sitka Fire Hall, Public Health and SEARHC for collaboration efforts.

John Holst, Superintendent for Sitka School District shared that the Listening Session occurs live December 16 for parents at 6:30 pm in Centennial Hall. The update to the Smart Start plan is going to allow more freedom in what is possible or not possible to operate safely for instruction. The District is targeting January 11 as a possible return time for in school instruction for all school buildings. Due to a huge number of traveling staff members over Christmas break there will not be enough staff to open for in school instructions the first week of January. The last day of instruction before Christmas is Friday, December 18.

Unit Resource Leader, Amy Ainslie shared that the COVID Conscious Business Program has launched, visit to fill out an application. For any questions about the program please email

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School said most students have left for the holidays and fourteen students will remain on campus over the winter break. Students will be returning from break on January 9.

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. 

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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