News Release: March 17 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES RECOVERY STEPS

SITKA, March 17, 2021  – Incident Commander, Craig Warren announced today Unified Command would be reviewing the five objectives laid out at the beginning of the pandemic: mitigate spread, care for sick, test and vaccinate, economic impact, & inform the public. Warren stated he would start the discussion of adding a new risk level to Sitka’s local mitigation guidance. He reminded Harry Race and White’s Pharmacy along with SEARHC Home Health were offering in-home vaccinations to make sure anyone who wished to receive a vaccine but were unable to make it to a vaccine clinic, could still be vaccinated. He said Unified Command’s next meeting would be April 7.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available for anyone living or working in Alaska who is age 16 or older.

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

Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing shared that Sitka has had five break through cases however didn’t consider that number to be high compared to the number of Sitkans who have been vaccinated. Ewing defined a breakthrough case as an infection that was a case of illness in which a vaccinated individual becomes sick from the same illness that the vaccine was to prevent. She said the State was watching those numbers and gathering data to provide more information about this virus.

Ewing reported vaccination statistics. Public Health has administered 220 vaccine doses. All four seafood processors, Sitka Salmon Shares, Silver Bay, Sitka Sound Seafood and SPC were in the process of being vaccinated. Due to inclement weather Ewing had not been able to travel to Point Baker and Point Protection. In Sitka, a total of 6,928 doses had been given by SEARHC with 3,760 1st doses and 3,168 2nd doses. Harry Race and White’s Pharmacies have given 1,176 doses. For the month of April, State allocations for Sitka are 1,100 Moderna and 100 Johnson & Johnson doses.

Public Information Officers, Jessica Ieremia and Sara Peterson, have had an uptick in questions related to travel to Sitka and they continue to post on vaccination eligibility and in-home vaccinations that are now available to Sitkans who cannot make it to a vaccination clinic.

Dr. Bruhl, SEARHC Incident Commander relayed SEARHC was using various forms of media to get the word out that everyone was eligible to be vaccinated who was 16+ and not just the high-risk groups. Bruhl was thrilled to see a high level of participation by commercial fishermen and seafood processors. He said vaccination progress represented an economic opportunity for our community to stand out as a safe place to visit. SEARHC had been vaccinating people visiting Sitka and would continue to do so.  He concluded by saying if Sitkans had friends or family in the lower 48 who needed to get vaccinated, they could receive their vaccinations in Sitka as long as the supply was strong.

Bruhl shared that people were experiencing a lightening of their mood and had more optimism because groups of vaccinated, unmasked individuals could gather safely in their homes. The breakthrough issues that the Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing mentioned were not surprising. He reminded no vaccine was 100% effective. Fortunately to date, data published in the American Journal of Medicine showed the variants detected from Brazil, South Africa and Europe thus far had all been shown to be responsive to the vaccines.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School shared that a little over 90 students today, March 17 received second vaccination.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist said that they were holding a vaccine clinic today, March 17 of both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the Sitka Firehall. There had been a noticeable interest in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine particularly with fisherman who could just show up one time and for folks who were redescent to receive an mRNA vaccine. Citizens may register for a vaccination clinic at Harry Race Pharmacy at Sitka Fire Hall.

Superintendent of the Sitka School District, John Holst, announced the School Board had put into place new travel guidelines for staff and students. With staff being vaccinated at 85%, there should not be any delays in instruction starting back up next week after Spring Break travel. Currently the District was testing all athletes Monday and Tuesday to make sure community transmission was not occurring. Holst thanked SEARHC for providing the test kits and gave appreciation to SEARHC, Harry Race and White’s Pharmacies for their vaccination efforts.

Thor Christianson, Logistics mentioned it was still difficult to get some PPE.

Amy Ainslie, Unit Resource Leader congratulated the Sheldon Jackson Museum and Raven Radio who recently joined 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.

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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