News Release: March 3 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES NEXT STEPS FOR SITKA

SITKA, March 3, 2021  – Incident Commander, Craig Warren announced he has assumed his new role as Incident Commander and that Unified Command will be readdressing objectives laid out at the beginning of the pandemic. He noted the group would review objectives to determine if they were still pertinent or if they needed to be revised. Warren stated he was hopeful that Sitka was coming to a point where we could start planning for our recovery stage and next steps.

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/.

Jay Sweeney, Finance Section Chief, provided an update on the September through December 2020 project, which had been submitted to the State of Alaska Department of Homeland Security for review. He stated a response had not been received likely due to the lack of a current point of contact who had been moved to another position. CBS was waiting to be assigned another manager to assist.

Public Information Officers, Jess Ieremia and Sara Peterson, reminded individuals traveling to familiarize themselves with the State of Alaska Health Advisories. https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-advisories/

Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing shared that the State of Alaska had significantly expanded the criteria for those who were eligible to receive State allocated vaccine. She reported the State of Alaska had been allocated 8,100 Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses for the month of March. Next week, the State would allocate 100 Johnson and Johnson doses to Sitka. Ewing reviewed case counts and reminded Sitkans to remember to vaccinate and to continue getting tested. Starting next week, the State would open vaccination clinics to seafood processors.

Amy Ainslie, Unit Resource Leader reminded the Sitka COVID Conscious Business Program was still open. 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.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist shared excitement about entering into Phase 1C of the vaccine eligibility. White mentioned in March, Harry Race & White’s Pharmacies would hold clinics every Wednesday and Friday. To date, the pharmacies had given a total 1,127 vaccines. 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 would meet March 3 and review amendments of the Smart Start program. Changes to the program would be described at the board meeting.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School shared that 150 students had received at least one vaccination. Vanasse said every student 16 and over had been given an opportunity to receive the vaccine. Mt. Edgecumbe High School continues, even with high vaccination rates, to ask students not to travel outside of Sitka for the remainder of the school year. Vanasse stated travel was considered the highest risk for students living in shared space with one another. She said parents, if vaccinated, were not required to quarantine upon arrival in Sitka when visiting their children.

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.

# # #

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update February 21-27, 2021

Decreasing Statewide transmission
Rt 0.98
HIGH Statewide alert status
16.0
Adequate Hospital capacityModerate Test positivity
2.2%
28.3%
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 plateaued across Alaska, with several regions seeing sharp increases in cases and others continuing to see slow decrease, althoughthe overall speed of decrease has flattened since late January.
  • Vaccination of Alaskans continues. Supply remains the main limiting factor.
  • Case rates have seen sharp declines in communities and areas where many Alaskans have been vaccinated, such as in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. The speed of this decline is most likely attributable to a high rate of vaccination. Case rates in other regions are expected to decline as communities receive more vaccines to distribute and more Alaskans choose to get vaccinated.
  • Alaska is currently the most vaccinated state per capita. 89% of the State/IHS vaccine allocation so far has been administered.
  • 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 the Anchorage/Mat-Su area. Both were associated with travel. One case of P.1. was identified in Anchorage and was not associated with travel; investigation is ongoing. Alaska’s Public Health Laboratories continue to monitor for variants of concern as well as for other variants of interest, such as the B.1.429 variant first identified in California which may be associated with increased transmissibility. Ten cases of B.1.429 have been identified in Alaska since early January.

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.
  • 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

  • 824 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 26.5% decrease from the week before and still reflects continued high-level community transmission throughout much of Alaska.
  • 14-day average daily case rates were similar in most regions of Alaska compared with last week. The Northern Southeast Region case rate increased from 7.7 to 27.0 and the Southern Southeast Region case rate increased from 14.8 to 18.4. The Southwest Region decreased from 18.7 to 4.8.  
  • Persistently high case rates continue in Matanuska-Susitna Region with a case rate of 35.9 compared to 34.9 last week.
  • The Yukon-Kuskokwim Region continues to have decreasing case rates now down to 21.5 from 38.8 last week and a high of 155.8 five weeks prior.
  • The estimated statewide daily growth rate as of March 1, 2021 is -1.08% and new cases are expected to halve every 63.9 days based on current modeling, a little slower than last week.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Regional case trends

  Behavioral Health RegionCase 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
Case rates Feb 21–Feb 27
Anchorage Municipality22.818.616.514.713.912.6
Fairbanks North Star Borough29.916.814.012.312.715.0
Interior Region except Fairbanks23.819.518.922.412.015.0
Juneau City and Borough11.813.913.07.07.28.5
Kenai Peninsula Borough13.68.95.46.15.55.7
Matanuska-Susitna Region23.821.624.336.234.935.9
Northern Southeast Region10.14.54.94.27.727.0
Northwest Region51.321.49.16.65.54.2
Southern Southeast Region5.04.36.111.214.818.4
Southwest Region35.125.520.327.018.74.8
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region155.8131.9119.761.938.821.5
Statewide28.921.519.318.116.316.0

Vaccines status update

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

 Reported vaccinations as of March 1, 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 March 1, 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 23%, and two shots, at 14%. 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.
  • The FDA authorized the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine on February 27. This is a one-shot COVID-19 vaccine that can be stored at refrigerated temperatures and is based on the adenovirus-vectored technology used in the company’s other vaccines. Clinical trials in tens of thousands of people around the world showed high efficacy even against new viral variants, meaning that the vaccine successfully prevents severe disease, hospitalization, and death. There were no serious safety concerns; expected side effects are similar to mRNA vaccines. Distribution of this vaccine is expected to begin as early as this week.
  • 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 21 through 27, 2021, 824 new Alaska cases were reported, a 26.5% decrease from last week, for a total of 56,339 cumulative cases reported in Alaskans.
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 1,240 with 12 reported as occurring this week. Hospitalization reports often lag and only 1,213 hospitalizations were reported at this time last week, so there are 27 hospitalizations newly reported this week including ones that began during previous weeks.
  • Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 10 (297 total). One of these deaths occurred during 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 21–27 may be reported in future as death certificates are reviewed.
  • 96 new nonresident cases were identified this week, for a total of 2,342 cases.
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Variant Tracking

Cumulative list of variants of concern identified in Alaska:

Test dateCityCOVID AcquisitionCOVID_VARIANT 
12/20/2020AnchorageTravelUK/ B1.1.7 
1/13/2021AnchorageTravelUK/ B1.1.7 
2/8/2021AnchorageCommunity acquiredBrazil/ P.1Detected in the week 2/21-2/27
  • Two cases of B.1.1.7, a variant of concern have been identified so far in Alaska. Both were in the Anchorage/Mat-Su area. Both were associated with travel. One case of P.1. was identified in Anchorage and was not associated with travel. Alaska’s Public Health Laboratories continue to monitor for variants of concern as well as for other variants of interest, such as the B.1.429 variant first identified in California which may be associated with increased transmissibility. Ten cases of B.1.429 have been identified in Alaska since early January.

Health care capacity

  • On March 1, 22 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

News Release: COVID-19 Death

SITKA, March 1, 2021 – The Sitka Emergency Operations Center has been informed of a recent death related to COVID-19.  The Sitkan was traveling out of state at the time.  Additional information will be provided as it becomes available from Public Health Officials and in accordance with HIPAA laws.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.