Continue Masking and Social Distancing

Continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing after vaccination. We don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus to other people, even if you don’t get sick yourself. Experts are also looking at how many people get vaccinated and how COVID-19 is spreading in communities.

Until we learn more, continue to:
• Wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
• Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
• Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
• Wash your hands often.

Learn more: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html?fbclid=IwAR0ea9N2O2B3uDbApoRQLGjaCyqb4xLPBe8iiL50r_J7xQLFgyvSju3YWL8#mask

COVID-19 Vaccine Registration in Sitka

Sitka Unified Command encourages citizens to enroll for a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently there are two options for vaccine registration in Sitka.

SEARHC is offering vaccines to all Sitkans age 16 and older. Registration is available at https://covid19.searhc.org/. Individuals will receive an email from SEARHC to schedule a vaccine appointment.

Harry Race Pharmacy, in collaboration with the State of Alaska, is offering vaccination clinics on March 3, 10, 12, 17, 19, and 24 at the Sitka Fire Hall. Registration is available to:
•People 65 years and above
•People 50 years and above with a high-risk medical condition
•People 50 years who are an essential worker and must work within 6 feet of others
•PreK-12 and childcare education staff
•Most healthcare workers
•People living or working in congregate settings

To schedule an appointment, visit: https://www.sitkapharmacies.com/covid-19 Those with questions may call 907.966.2102.

Please assist your Elders and family members with online vaccine registration.

Sitka’s COVID-19 Alert Level Low

February 26, 2021

Sitka’s current COVID-19 alert level is LOW. Keep up the great work everyone!

The following mitigation guidance is recommended:

•Masks/face coverings recommended when 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained from others
•Maintain physical distancing of 6 feet
•Limit gathering size so a minimum of 6 feet can be maintained
•Restaurants: delivery or carryout preferred

Stay informed by visiting the CBS COVID-19 Dashboard at https://cityofsitka.org.

DHSS COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update for February 14-20, 2021

Decreasing Statewide transmission
Rt 0.98
HIGH Statewide alert status
16.3%
Adequate Hospital capacityModerate Test positivity
2.1%
25.8%
of Alaskan adults vaccinated
Red- quickly increasing, Rt>1.2
Orange- increasing, Rt 1-1.2
Yellow-decreasing, Rt<1
Red- 14-day average case rate per 100,000 people >10
Orange- 5-10
Yellow- <5
Red- <3 weeks until beyond capacity
Orange- 3-6 weeks
Yellow- >6 weeks
Red->5%
Orange- 2-5%
Yellow- <2%
At least one shot. Estimated
AK population 18 and older of 551,585 from census.gov. A small number of Alaskans aged 16 and 17 have been vaccinated and are included.

Brief status report

  • Virus transmission continues to slowly decrease across most areas of Alaska, but the speed of decrease overall has flattened since late January. Four regions had increases in case rates during this week.
  • Vaccination of Alaskans continues. Supply remains the main limiting factor.
  • Alaska is currently the most vaccinated state per capita.
  • DHSS encourages all Alaskans who are currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination to make appointments as soon as possible by visiting covidvax.alaska.gov or by calling 1-907-646-3322. The call line is staffed Monday-Friday from 9AM-6:30PM and 9AM-4:30PM on weekends. Eligibility information can be found at covidvax.alaska.gov. Alaskans receiving health services through a Tribal Health Organization or the Department of Defense should contact those organizations directly to determine their eligibility.
  • Two cases of B.1.1.7, a variant of concern, have been identified so far in Alaska. Both were in Anchorage and were associated with travel. One case of P.1, another variant of concern, was identified in a resident of Anchorage without known recent travel. Alaska’s Public Health Laboratories continue to monitor for variants of concern.

What Alaskans can do

  • Every Alaskan who chooses to wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid indoor gatherings, and get vaccinated when eligible helps protect themselves and the health of all Alaskans.
  • New virus strains may be more transmissible. Wearing well-fitting masks, distancing, vaccination, avoiding gatherings, following all travel requirements, and other mitigation measures are our best tools to decrease the chance of the new variant entering Alaska and spreading.
  • To stop COVID-19, including new strains of virus, from coming into Alaska and spreading, testing within 72 hours before returning to Alaska or on arrival and then strict social distancing until the test result is available is recommended. A second test 5-14 days after arrival is also recommended if the traveler is not fully vaccinated. As of Jan 26, 2021, the CDC requires international travelers to show proof of a negative test from within the last 72 hours on arrival back in the US.
  • CDC guidelines recommend regular asymptomatic testing for critical infrastructure workers and other groups at higher risk for COVID-19.
  • Alaskans should get tested immediately at the first sign of any symptoms. Tests work best when obtained promptly after symptoms start. Testing early helps people know if they are positive quickly and helps prompt them to take immediate precautions to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
  • Most Alaskans get COVID-19 from a friend, family member, or coworker. 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.
  • Alaskans should avoid indoor gatherings with non-household members, avoid crowds, wear masks when around non-household members, and stay 6 feet from anyone not in their household.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Case trends and predictions

  • 1,121 new cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 11% increase from the week before and still reflects continued high-level community transmission throughout much of Alaska.
  • 14-day average daily case rates were similar or slightly decreased in most regions of Alaska compared with last week. The Southern Southeast Region had an increase in case rate from 11.2 to 14.8, and the Northern Southeast Region increased from 4.2 to 7.7. Larger decreases were seen in the Southwest Region, from 27.0 to 18.7, and in the Interior Region, from 22.4 to 12.0.  
  • The highest case rates continue to be seen in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region, but another substantial decrease was seen over the last week from 61.9 to 38.8 from a high of 155.8 four weeks prior.
  • The estimated statewide daily growth rate as of February 22, 2021 is -1.2% and new cases are expected to halve every 58 days based on current modeling, a little slower than last week.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Regional case trends

Behavioral Health RegionCase rates
Jan 10– Jan 16
Case rates
Jan 17– Jan 23
Case rates
Jan 24– Jan 30
Case rates
Jan 31– Feb 6
Case rates
Feb 7– Feb 13
Case rates
Feb 14– Feb 20
Anchorage Municipality31.922.818.616.514.713.9
Fairbanks North Star Borough42.129.916.814.012.312.7
Interior Region except Fairbanks26.823.819.518.922.412.0
Juneau City and Borough7.811.813.913.07.07.2
Kenai Peninsula Borough19.613.68.95.46.15.5
Matanuska-Susitna Region40.723.821.624.336.234.9
Northern Southeast Region14.710.14.54.94.27.7
Northwest Region69.051.321.49.16.65.5
Southern Southeast Region9.05.04.36.111.214.8
Southwest Region41.035.125.520.327.018.7
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region136.3155.8131.9119.761.938.8
Statewide36.728.921.519.318.116.3

Vaccines status update

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

 Reported vaccinations as of February 22, 2020.

  • The State of Alaska is working with federal, local, Tribal, and military partners to ensure that the distribution of vaccine goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
  • Currently eligible groups for vaccination can be found on covidvax.alaska.gov. All registration for vaccines should go through the registration system on covidvax.alaska.gov , which also has an eligibility tool for any Alaskan unsure of when they can receive the vaccine. All updates on phases and tiers will be posted on that website and new appointments are added on a continuous basis; Alaskans are encouraged to check it frequently.
  • A limited amount of vaccine is currently available with more expected to be delivered in the coming months. On February 22, the New York Times vaccination tracker had Alaska leading all other states in the percent of the population that has received at least one shot, at 21%, and two shots, at 11.5%. The Alaska vaccine tracker is available online as is a vaccine dashboard for more up-to-date data.
  • There is a several day lag in reporting some vaccinations so the dashboard does not yet reflect all vaccinations that have been given.
  • There are no plans to mandate a vaccine at the state level.
  • The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is responsible for providing national recommendations for vaccine administration and allocation.

New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths

  • During the week of February 14 through 20, 2021, 823 1,121 new Alaska cases were reported, a 27% decrease from last week, for a total of 55,507 cumulative cases reported in Alaskans.
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 1,213 with 8 reported as occurring this week. Hospitalization reports often lag and only 1,199 hospitalizations were reported at this time last week, so there are 14 hospitalizations newly reported this week including ones that began during previous weeks.
  • Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 2 (287 total). One occurred this past week and one occurred prior to this past week. It is common to take more than a week for a death to be reported, and more deaths that occurred during Feb 14–20 may be reported in future as death certificates are reviewed.
  • 69 new nonresident cases were identified this week, for a total of 2,246 cases.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Health care capacity

  • On February 22, 35 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 were hospitalized and 5 were reported to require a mechanical ventilator.
  • Hospital staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19.

Total Confirmed COVID-19 Beds Occupied

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Cases by Week Reported and Age Group

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Cases by Week Reported and Race

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Cases by Week Reported and Region

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Additional informational resources:

For DHSS media inquiries, please contact clinton.bennett@alaska.gov

Stay diligent, Sitka!

A timely reminder from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

We’re getting to the finish line of this pandemic, thanks to the hard work of Alaskans, but now is not the time to let down our guard. While COVID-19 vaccines add another layer of protection, masking up in public, keeping 6 feet from others and avoiding gatherings remain critical tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – at least for now.

At this time, there is still considerable community transmission occurring in many Alaska communities. Some communities are seeing a decrease in cases while others, including some Southeast communities, are experiencing increases. Wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, keep at least 6 feet apart, keep your circles small and when it’s your turn, vaccinate.

Learn more:http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/default.aspx?fbclid=IwAR2yMvngYCPjVhA2r-foOMzmri5fdu5gltwCzk-e_LOgJxqz4JZu9fLbAhY

CBS Covid-19 Dashboard: https://cityofsitka.org/

COVID-19 vs Flu

DYK? COVID-19 and flu can both cause fever, cough, and body aches. However, shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell are more common with COVID-19 than with flu. Use this chart to learn some more similarities and differences of COVID-19 and flu.

For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm?fbclid=IwAR2Bq0sAixF8MSm-WvZRJ6iovSFROkxNnSzeI9LphHCF5biLxr3EYgnR53E

State of Alaska COVID-19 Response and Recovery: Health Advisory No. 4 Critical Infrastructure

On February 14, the State of Alaska issued four new Health Advisories.

The purpose of Health Advisory No. 4 is to provide clear guidance for Critical Infrastructure businesses operating in the State of Alaska, in order to protect communities and industries in which they serve.

Community/Workforce Protective Plans. All private sector Critical Infrastructure Businesses that have staff arriving from outside the State of Alaska, and/or staff traveling to or between communities off the road system or Alaska Marine Highway System, are strongly recommended to submit a Community/Workforce Protective Plan (CWPP) to the Alaska COVID-19 Unified Command. Detailed instructions for developing and submitting CWPPs can be found at: https://covid19.alaska.gov/unified-command/protective-plans/.

Appendix 4-01, Enhanced Protective Measures for Seafood Processing Workers. Appendix 4-01 applies to all resident employees and all workers traveling into Alaska to work in a shore-based seafood processing plant or onboard a processor or catcher-processor vessel. Seafood processing companies are still strongly recommended to develop and submit CWPPs using the posted instructions. The protective measures enacted by the company CWPP should meet or exceed the requirements of Appendix 4-01: https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/02.14.21-Appendix-01-to-Health-Advisory-4.pdf

Appendix 4-02, Protective Plan for Independent Commercial Fishing Vessels. Appendix 4-02 applies to all independent commercial fishing vessels operating in Alaskan waters and ports. For the purposes of this Alert, “independent commercial fishing vessels” are defined as all catcher and tender vessels that have not agreed to operate under a fleet-wide plan submitted by a company, association, or entity that represents a fleet of vessels. Independent commercial fishing vessels operating in Alaskan waters and ports should enact the protective measures and procedures described in Appendix 4-02, the Alaska Protective Plan for Commercial Fishing Vessels. Vessels are not expected to develop or submit a stand-alone Community/Workforce Protective Plan. Appendix 4-02 serves as their CWPP. Vessel captains should enact controls on their vessel to ensure crewmember compliance with this Health Advisory and the Appendices. https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/02.14.21-Appendix-02-to-Health-Advisory-4.pdf

Appendix 4-03, Protective Plan for Independent Commercial Fishing Harvesters. Appendix 4-03 applies to all independent commercial fishing harvesters who are harvesting catch from Alaskan waters. For the purposes of this Alert, “independent commercial fishing harvesters” are defined as all commercial fishing harvesters who do not meet the definition for independent commercial fishing vessels above, and that have not agreed to operate under a fleet-wide plan submitted by a company, association, or entity that represents a fisheries sector. Independent commercial fishing harvest operations in Alaskan waters should enact the protective measures and procedures described in Appendix 4-03, the

Alaska Protective Plan for Independent Commercial Fishing Harvesters. Harvesting sites are not expected to develop or submit a stand-alone Community/Workforce Protective Plan. Appendix 4-03 serves as their CWPP. Site Managers should enact controls at their harvesting operation to ensure harvester compliance with this Health Advisory and the Appendices. https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/02.14.21-Appendix-03-to-Health-Advisory-4.pdf

Appendix 4-04, Acknowledgement Form for Commercial Fishing Vessels and Harvesting Sites. For the 2021 season, each commercial fishing vessel captain and/or owner and each harvesting site manager should sign a copy of Appendix 4-04, Acknowledgement Form, prior to actively participating in the 2021 commercial fishing season. This is highly recommended for all vessels, even those operating under a fleet or association protective plan. To promote the safety of the fishing fleet, tenders and processors are strongly encouraged not to purchase catch from vessels or harvesting sites that have not signed a copy of Appendix 4-04. https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/02.14.21-Appendix-04-to-Health-Advisory-4.pdf

To read Health Advisory No. 4 in its entirety, visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/02.14.21-Health-Advisory-4-Critical-Infrastructure.pdf

For the complete list of COVID-19 Response and Recovery Health Advisories, visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-advisories/

Continue COVID-19 Safety Precautions

A reminder from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. It’s not forever. It’s just for now. Please vaccinate when it’s your turn, continue to wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands, avoid gatherings and get tested quickly if you experience even mild symptoms. Keep up the great work, Sitka!

COVID-19 Resources:

–> SEARHC: https://covid19.searhc.org/
–> Alaska Department of Health and Social Services: https://covid19.alaska.gov/
–> Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

State of Alaska COVID-19 Response and Recovery: Health Advisory No. 3 Intrastate Travel

On February 14, the State of Alaska issued four new Health Advisories.

Health Advisory No. 3 addresses Intrastate Travel and provides guidance to travelers located ON the road system and the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) traveling to communities OFF the road system and the AMHS. In addition, the Advisory provides guidance for travelers from communities OFF the road system and the AMHS traveling to communities ON the road system and AMHS.

Testing Recommendations:

  • If you are traveling from a community ON the road system and AMHS to a community OFF the road system and AMHS, it is recommended you test 3 days prior to travel. Testing related to travel is available at the Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport free of charge (testing hours 5:30pm to 6:30pm daily). It is also recommended you follow strict social distancing until negative test results are available. If you don’t take a test, it is recommended you follow strict social distancing for 14 days at your final destination.
  • If you are traveling from a community OFF the road system and AMHS to a community ON the road system and AMHS for a length of time greater than 72 hours, it is recommended you take a pre-travel test three days before returning to the rural community. In addition, it is recommended you follow strict social distancing until negative test results are available. If you don’t take a test, you should follow strict social distancing for 14 days at your final destination. Testing related to travel is available at the Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport free of charge (testing hours 5:30pm to 6:30pm daily).

Fully-vaccinated travelers should follow pre-travel testing protocols, but do not need to follow strict social distancing while they are awaiting test results.  Fully-vaccinated is defined as more than two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series, or more than two weeks following receipts of one dose of a single-dose series.

Anyone who is currently infected with the COVID-19 virus must not travel until they are cleared from isolation by a medical professional.

Asymptomatic people who have recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days are exempt from travel testing.

To read Health Advisory No. 3 in its entirety, visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/02.14.21-Health-Advisory-3-Intrastate-Travel.pdf

For the complete list of COVID-19 Response and Recovery Health Advisories, visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-advisories/

News Release February 17: Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES EXPIRATION OF DISASTER DECLARATION AND NEW HEALTH ADVISORIES

SITKA, February 17, 2021  – Incident Commander, John Leach reported Sitka was at a Low Alert Level and Sitka’s case rate continued to decrease. He announced that while in Low Alert, Unified Command would meet every other Wednesday. Since the last meeting, the State’s Emergency Declaration had expired, and four new Health Advisories had been issued. With the Disaster Declaration expiration, Leach stated initially he was concerned about three things:  1) continued airport testing 2) receipt of vaccine allocations 3) FEMA reimbursement if no State Declaration in place. That said, Leach was confident with where things were at (airport testing and vaccine distribution were still happening). He noted he had heard of a possible extension of the Disaster Declaration and that it may be back dated retroactively to the date it had expired. With regards to FEMA reimbursement, he noted spending had been minimal except for emergency personnel overtime. He shared Sitka’s vaccination rate was over 50%.

Leach noted as of February 11, the CDC guidance related to quarantine had been updated to read:

  1. People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the  past 3 months and people who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not have to quarantine or get tested again as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
  2. People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout with COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
  3. People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the disease within the last 3 months and show no symptoms.

The CDC and Sitka Unified Command recommend continued mitigation guidance along with getting vaccinated. To stay informed visit our COVID-19 Dashboard at https://cityofsitka.org/.

Public Information Officers, Jessica Ieremia and Sara Peterson reminded the public that even though the Disaster Declaration had expired, a pandemic still exists, and people needed to continue to do the right thing and take mitigation efforts against the disease.

Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing confirmed that case numbers continued to be low and Public Health was focusing on contact tracing and COVID-19 education. She shared her vaccination effort in small rural communities continues.  The first two weeks of March she was scheduled to be in Point Baker and Port Protection. The State was currently in Tier 1B with seafood processers and essential workers over the age of 50 able to receive a vaccination. Ewing reminded the public that the vaccine is a tremendous layer of protection along with masking and social distancing.

John Holst, Superintendent of the Sitka School District said the High School was starting to make plans for graduation. School was in progress and their main concern right now was the more contagious variants. Holst was happy to report that staff Immunization rate was over 85%. 

Amy Ainslie, Unit Resource Leader shared there were 12 organizations taking part of the Sitka COVID Conscious Business Program. She encouraged businesses interested in applying to visit cityofsitka.org and click on the Sitka COVID Conscious Business Program link at the top of the page. For questions email covidconscious@cityofsitka.org.

Craig Warren, Operations Section Chief reported that with the decrease in cases the Fire Department was not seeing many COVID-19 patients being transferred in or out of Sitka. He reported Silver Bay Seafoods was bringing in 135 employees for the herring season and they were planning to remain at status quo with their 2020 mitigation strategy. He reiterated all processors in Sitka were committed to keeping the community safe.   Warren reminded Sitkans that the vaccine was not a force field. Even if you’ve received a vaccine you can still become infected and may transmit the virus. Warren said he would keep the station closed to the public but in March the Firehall would be opened for training volunteers in the field.  

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School relayed the school was thrilled Sitka had moved to Low Alert and the students could now visit town. Vanasse said students were competing in sports and it was working out well. Mt. Edgecumbe has planned an in-person graduation however understand things could change due to COVID-19. The school has remained in communication about potential changes with parents. Parents have been interested in what the vaccines mean for them being able to come visit their children and attend graduation. Vanasse stated parents were still required to test but if they were fully vaccinated, parents would not need to quarantine before coming on campus.

Maegan Bosak, SEARHC Liaison shared that as of February 17, in Sitka, 48,683 COVID tests had been completed. To date there had been 3,050 first doses and 1,692 second doses completed in Sitka.  SEARHC continued to have vaccine clinics happening through February. The clinics averaged about 300 people per clinic. She said SEARHC was scheduling vaccinations for ages 16 and older. If interested in receiving the vaccine register at https://covid19.searhc.org and leave a valid email address.

Jay Sweeney, Finance Section Chief relayed the Finance Department received the last piece of backup for September 1 -December 31 project. The project would be sent to the Finance Director for a signature and then submitted to a State Department at Homeland Security for review. Wages for temporary EMS workers were the only expense being charged to FEMA at this time.

Unified Command recommends citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race Pharmacy at Sitka Fire Hall and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/.

We urge 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 https://cityofsitka.org or https://covid19.searhc.org.

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