City and Borough of Sitka Assembly Ordinance Requiring Use of a Face Covering in Certain Indoor Settings and Providing a Penalty

On July 30, 2021 the City and Borough of Sitka Assembly approved ordinance 2021-24 requiring use of a face covering in certain indoor settings and providing a penalty.

The following is required: All individuals must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are indoors in public settings or communal spaces outside the home.

The ordinance shall remain in effect until the risk level as defined by the Sitka Emergency operations Center is moderate during times before August 24, 2021, or at midnight on August 24, 2021, whichever occurs first. If the risk level is still high it will be on the Assembly agenda for possible renewal on August 24, 2021.

Click below to read details on the settings, employment requirements, exceptions, and enforcement policy.

NEWS RELEASE: July 28 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND FUTURE DASHBOARD CHANGES AND DISCUSSION OF ASSEMBLY EMERGENCY MEETING

SITKA, July 28, 2021 – Incident Commander Craig Warren stated that Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) was reviewing the www.cityofsitka.org dashboard. He relayed that there may be too much identifiable information posted and that there may be changes that included combined data. He told of his concerns with loosing previous data.

He appreciated the State of Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Zink for her report to the assembly at their July 27 meeting noting that it validated mitigations that the Emergency Operations Center had been communicating.

Dr. Bruhl, SEARHC Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander reported that SEARHC hospital was doing as well as they could and that it had been busy. He said that typically summer was a busy time in the emergency room. He stated that the census has been anywhere from 11 to 22 with up to 9 inpatients with COVID-19 in the last week. He noted the consistency with the trends in Anchorage and elsewhere. He stated overall, there was a younger population mainly in their 30’s and 40’s that were in the hospital and that they were sick. He said they haven’t medevacked anyone out with COVID-19 recently.

He told of his concerns of the availability for transfer opportunities, and the inquiry of transfer opportunities to Seattle because of a shortage of ICU beds in Anchorage. He said the referral hospitals in Seattle continued to have availability. He relayed from a statewide press briefing from other leaders of hospitals that this was the COVID-19 surge that was prepared for last fall and that it was starting to affect many communities across the state and that community leaders needed to step up and help.

SEARHC testing is available between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Individuals may call the COVID-19 hotline at 966.8799 for questions.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing reported on new positive cases to add to the www.cityofsitka.org  dashboard, and she stated she was working on aggregate reporting data for the dashboard with the Chief Director and Public Health Director. She said there were 30 cumulative hospitalizations with 6 active cases in the hospital.

Thor Christianson, Assembly Liaison told of the report that Dr. Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska gave at the assembly meeting on July 27 which confirmed what Unified Command had been saying. There would be an emergency assembly meeting on July 29 with three emergency ordinances on the agenda one of which was a mask mandate. Another ordinance was for a $1,000 grant for anyone that tested positive for COVID-19 to stay home for 10 days to encourage people to isolate. Third was an effort to reserve two hotel rooms for a few months for stranded travelers, although the traveler would pay for the room, it would be available for them.

Public Information Officers Melissa Henshaw and Jessica Ieremia reported on social media posts, relayed information from Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) statewide calls, and calls, concerns, and suggestions from citizens.

Sitka School District Superintendent Frank Hauser told of the continued collaboration with public health officials as they planned for returning to in person school in the fall. He said that the CDC released new layered mitigation guidance which the district successfully employed last year such masking, distancing, contract tracing, quarantining, etc. In addition, the district would be adding layered protection of a ventilating system and weekly optional testing for students and staff.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) thanked Hauser for mentioning the new guidelines and stated MEHS was updating their COVID-19 plan and were incorporating the guidelines. She included thanks to the partnership with SEARHC as great collaboration that would allow a safe way to get kids on campus with layered mitigations for in person instruction.

Adam Kersch, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) COVID Coordinator stated the tribal council passed a resolution urging the assembly to adopt a mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19. He reported that public transportation was open. They continued to monitor COVID-19 levels in order to determine what mitigation levels were needed to keep drivers and the community safe. STA was continuing a social media campaign to encourage folks to get vaccinated.

Due to the High Alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends continued mitigation: face masks are strongly encouraged for individuals regardless of vaccination status, maintaining physical distance of 6 feet along with following CDC guidelines CDC Guidelines.

We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others. In addition, get tested but 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. 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 Sitka Emergency Unified Command continues to urge citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race Pharmacy and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated to be safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus. Being vaccinated is the best way to protect our community.

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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COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: July 18 – July 24, 2021

Alaska Weekly Update

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
July 18 — July 24, 2021

HIGH Statewide transmission
Rt 1.42
HIGH Statewide alert status
22.8
Limited Hospital capacityIntermediate Test positivity
5.2%
57.2%
Alaskans 12 years and older are vaccinated
Red- Rt >1.2
Orange- Rt 1-1.2 Yellow- Rt <1
14-day average cases reported per 100,000 population Red>10
Orange- 5-10
Yellow- <5
Multiple hospitals in Anchorage were at surge capacity the weekend of July 24th and 25th due to high volumes of both COVID and non-COVID patients.Red->5%
Orange- 2-5%
Yellow- <2%
This includes people with at least one dose. Estimated AK population 12 and older of 607,022 from the AK Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

Case Trends

  • The number of COVID-19 cases in Alaska continued last week on a clear upwards trajectory.

  • 1,358 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 55% increase from the week before. This is the sixth week in a row of week-over-week increases.
  • Increases in cases were widely distributed across the state, with increases in multiple parts of Southeast Alaska (especially Sitka and Juneau), nearly all parts of the state on the road system (including Kenai Peninsula Borough, Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough, and the Copper River Census Area), and some parts of rural Alaska (e.g., Bethel Census Area and Kodiak Island Borough).
  • The Delta variant has become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in Alaska. This variant transmits more easily than other variants.
  • Currently available COVID vaccines will help protect you, your family, and your community against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Getting vaccinated now is more important than ever. Avoid crowds and delay travel until you are fully vaccinated.
  • All regions of Alaska are now at the “orange” or “red” Alert Level. All persons, including fully vaccinated persons, should wear a mask when in indoor public spaces.

Regional Alert Level Trends

  • Alert levels are based on the daily average number of reported cases over the past 14 days per 100,000 population.
Behavioral Health RegionAlert Level July 7Alert Level July 12Alert Level
July 19
Alert Level July 26
Anchorage Municipality7.69.417.325.6
Fairbanks North Star Borough0.81.32.46.7
Interior Region except Fairbanks3.17.719.440.3
Juneau City and Borough3.13.66.724.5
Kenai Peninsula Borough3.57.018.735.4
Matanuska-Susitna Region3.12.85.511.9
Northern Southeast Region5.613.751.199.1
Northwest Region6.63.22.67.1
Southern Southeast Region2.94.04.06.1
Southwest Region**1.56.320.5
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region17.614.012.422.3
Statewide5.26.412.722.8

** Rates based on <6 observations are not reported

Vaccination Status

  • Anyone aged 12+ in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have received an initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to get your second dose too. Evidence suggests two doses of an mRNA vaccine are more effective than one dose of an mRNA vaccine, especially against emerging variants of concern.
  • Vaccinated persons with immunocompromising conditions should discuss with their health care providers the need for personal protective measures.
  • To schedule your vaccine appointment visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.
  • You can also visit vaccines.gov or find clinics in your area by texting your zip code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish.
  • The Alaska vaccine dashboard is available online for the most up-to-date data.

Regional Vaccine Coverage:

This is the percent of Alaskans aged 12+ who received one or more dose of vaccine.

Borough/Census AreaJuly 27
Aleutians East Borough86.8%
Aleutians West Census Area70.9%
Anchorage Municipality70.0%
Bethel Census Area73.5%
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula89.5%
Denali Borough66.8%
Dillingham Census Area60.0%
Fairbanks North Star Borough49.4%
Haines Borough69.9%
Juneau City and Borough78.1%
Kenai Peninsula Borough47.2%
Ketchikan Gateway Borough66.2%
Kodiak Island Borough65.8%
Kusilvak Census Area78.2%
Matanuska-Susitna Borough39.9%
Nome Census Area81.3%
North Slope Borough37.4%
Northwest Arctic Borough62.2%
Petersburg Borough65.1%
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area66.8%
Sitka City and Borough75.8%
Skagway Municipality82.5%
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area32.9%
Valdez-Cordova Census Area61.9%
Wrangell City and Borough61.6%
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon77.3%
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area78.1%
Statewide57.2%

New Hospitalizations and Deaths

  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 27 to 1,694. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
  • 8.9% of hospitalized patients in Alaska had COVID-19 as of July 27, 2021.
  • On July 24, 2021, there were 97 persons with COVID-19 in AK hospitals, which is a 64% increase relative to the week before when there were 59 persons hospitalized.
  • The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents increased by 3 to 377. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during July 18-July 24 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.

Total Confirmed COVID Beds Occupied

Variant Tracking

Variants of ConcernCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Alpha (B.1.1.7)416+520 December 2020
Beta (B.1.351)7020 March 2021
Gamma (P.1/P.1.1/P.1.2)71+18 February 2021
Delta (B.1.617.2-like)251+13730 May 2021
 
Variants of InterestCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Epsilon (B.1.427/429)139024 December 2020
Eta (B.1.525)1016 March 2021
Iota (B.1.526)3004 February 2021
Zeta (P.2)4027 January 2021

Vaccine Breakthrough Cases

  • Vaccine breakthrough (VB) infections of COVID-19 are those detected in a person who is at least 2 weeks beyond their second dose of a 2-dose series or the only dose of a 1-dose series.
  • From January 1–July 24, 2021, three deaths, 37 hospitalizations, and 1,324 cases with a VB infection were reported among Alaska residents. These counts are provisional and subject to change as more data are compiled. In that same time frame, a total of 22,886 cases, 589 hospitalizations, and 89 deaths were reported.
  • 94% of all cases, 94% of all hospitalizations, and 97% of all deaths to date were in people who were not fully vaccinated. 
  • Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report.

Statewide Percentage of Daily Tests with Positive Results
(Seven day rolling average)

Cases by Week of Onset and Age

Cases by Week of Onset and Race

Additional informational resources:

  • The State of Alaska COVID-19 information page provides more information about the virus and how individuals and businesses can protect themselves and others from transmission
  • For the most up-to-date case information, see the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub dashboard: updated Monday – Friday at data.coronavirus.alaska.gov
  • For DHSS media inquiries, please contact clinton.bennett@alaska.gov

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Change in Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changes in guidelines if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • To reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
  • You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.

Updated COVID-19 Local Mitigation Guidance

An updated COVID-19 local mitigation guidance chart. Some changes that have been made are high alert level recommendations, travel recommendations, and the “limited” color change from chartreuse to light blue from Unified Command.

While in high alert level:

*Masks are strongly encouraged when 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained

*Large indoor gatherings is not recommended

*Testing upon arrival is strongly encouraged

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: July 11 – July 17, 2021

Alaska Weekly Update

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
July 11 — July 17, 2021

HIGH Statewide transmission
Rt 1.31
HIGH Statewide alert status
12.7
Limited Hospital capacityIntermediate Test positivity
4.88%
56.6%
Alaskans 12 years and older are vaccinated
Red- Rt >1.2
Orange- Rt 1-1.2 Yellow- Rt <1
Red- 14-day average case rate per 100,000 >10

Orange- 5-10

Yellow- <5
Multiple hospitals in Anchorage were at maximum capacity the weekend of July 17th and 18th due to high volumes of both COVID and non-COVID patients.Red->5% Orange- 2-5% Yellow- <2%At least one shot. Estimated AK population 12 and older of 607,022 from the Alaska Department of Labor

Case Trends

  • The number of identified cases of COVID-19 in Alaska increased sharply last week compared to the previous week. This is the fifth week in a row of week-over-week increases and was larger than increases in recent weeks.

  • 882 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 140% increase from the week before.
  • Increases in cases were widely distributed across Alaska, with notable increases in Anchorage, Sitka, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Chugach Census Area, Juneau, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and Kodiak Island Borough.
  • The number of Alaskans hospitalized with COVID-19 is increasing as well. The total number of reported nonresident cases increased by 54 this week for a total of 3,008.
  • It is highly likely that the Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is substantially contributing to the increase in cases. This variant spreads more easily than previous variants.
  • Currently available COVID-19 vaccines will help protect you, your family, and your community against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Getting vaccinated now is more important than ever. And until you are fully vaccinated, avoid crowded places and wear a mask whenever indoors with people you don’t live with.

Regional Alert Level Trends

  • Alert levels are based on the daily average number of reported cases over the past 14 days per 100,000 population.
Behavioral Health RegionAlert Level June 28Alert Level July 7Alert Level July 12Alert Level
July 19
Anchorage Municipality5.17.69.417.3
Fairbanks North Star Borough1.20.81.32.4
Interior Region except Fairbanks4.33.17.719.4
Juneau City and Borough1.63.13.66.7
Kenai Peninsula Borough1.73.57.018.7
Matanuska-Susitna Region3.53.12.85.5
Northern Southeast Region3.25.613.751.1
Northwest Region4.56.63.22.6
Southern Southeast Region3.32.94.04.0
Southwest Region2.8**1.56.3
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region23.117.614.012.4
Statewide4.35.26.412.7

** Rates based on <6 observations are not reported

Vaccination Status

  • Anyone aged 12+ in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have received an initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to get your second dose too. Evidence suggests two doses of an mRNA vaccine are more effective than one dose of an mRNA vaccine, especially against emerging variants of concern.
  • Vaccinated persons with immunocompromising conditions should discuss with their health care providers the need for personal protective measures.
  • To schedule your vaccine appointment visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.
  • You can also visit vaccines.gov or find clinics in your area by texting your zip code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish.
  • The Alaska vaccine dashboard is available online for the most up-to-date data.

Regional Vaccine Coverage:

This is the percent of Alaskans aged 12+ who received one or more dose of vaccine.

Borough/Census AreaJuly 19
Aleutians East Borough86.3%
Aleutians West Census Area70.2%
Anchorage Municipality60.2%
Bethel Census Area72.8%
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula88.5%
Denali Borough66.4%
Dillingham Census Area59.8%
Fairbanks North Star Borough48.8%
Haines Borough69.7%
Juneau City and Borough77.4%
Kenai Peninsula Borough46.6%
Ketchikan Gateway Borough65.7%
Kodiak Island Borough65.2%
Kusilvak Census Area77.6%
Matanuska-Susitna Borough39.4%
Nome Census Area80.9%
North Slope Borough36.9%
Northwest Arctic Borough61.8%
Petersburg Borough64.7%
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area66.5%
Sitka City and Borough74.5%
Skagway Municipality81.3%
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area32.6%
Valdez-Cordova Census Area61.3%
Wrangell City and Borough61.5%
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon76.9%
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area77.7%
Statewide56.6%

New Hospitalizations and Deaths

  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 12 to 1,667. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
  • 5.8% of hospitalized patients in Alaska had COVID-19 as of July 20, 2021.
  • On July 17, 2021, there were 59 persons with COVID-19 in AK hospitals, which is a 59% increase relative to the week before when there were 37 persons hospitalized.
  • Multiple hospitals in Anchorage were diverting patients the weekend of July 17th and 18th due to high volumes of both COVID and non-COVID patients. DHSS is working to revise its indicator of hospital capacity.
  • The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents remains 374. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during July 11—July 17 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.

Total Confirmed COVID Beds Occupied

Variant Tracking

Variants of ConcernCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Alpha (B.1.1.7)411+2720 December 2020
Beta (B.1.351)7020 March 2021
Gamma (P.1/P.1.1/P.1.2)70+58 February 2021
Delta (B.1.617.2-like)114+5630 May 2021
 
Variants of InterestCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Epsilon (B.1.427/429)139+124 December 2020
Eta (B.1.525)1016 March 2021
Iota (B.1.526)30+14 February 2021
Zeta (P.2)4027 January 2021

Vaccine Breakthrough Cases

  • Vaccine breakthrough (VB) infections of COVID-19 are those detected in a person who is at least 2 weeks beyond their second dose of a 2-dose series or the only dose of a 1-dose series.
  • From January 1–July 17, 2021, two deaths, 28 hospitalizations, and 948 cases resulting from a VB infection were reported among Alaska residents. These counts are provisional and subject to change as more data are compiled. In that same time frame, a total of 23,529 cases, 562 hospitalizations, and 86 deaths were reported.
  • 96% of all cases, 95% of all hospitalizations and 98% of all deaths to date were in unvaccinated people.

Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report

Statewide Percentage of Daily Test with Positive Results
(Seven day rolling average)

Cases by Week Reported and Age

Cases by Week Reported and Race

Additional informational resources:

  • The State of Alaska COVID-19 information page provides more information about the virus and how individuals and businesses can protect themselves and others from transmission
  • For the most up-to-date case information, see the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub dashboard: updated Monday – Friday at data.coronavirus.alaska.gov
  • For DHSS media inquiries, please contact clinton.bennett@alaska.gov

NEWS RELEASE: July 21 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND ASKS SITKANS TO LOOK AT THEIR PRACTICES

SITKA, July 21, 2021 – Incident Commander Craig Warren stated that Unified Command had heard citizens comments but that there was a limit to the Unified Command authority noting that Unified Command advised and gave recommendations to the public and the Assembly as a legislative body. Unified Command was asking all individuals to do what was right. He stressed to get vaccinated, wear a mask, social distance, and practice good hygiene. He urged everyone to look at their own practices. He asked the questions for mitigation in the High Alert level of, Have you changed your habits, business practices, and social activities? Unified Command recommended mask wearing regardless of vaccinated or unvaccinated status, due to the breakthrough cases and the transmission to others. He hoped to get through the spike and to be able to take masks off again.

Warren reminded of the common theme to stop and think if what you were doing was right for you, your family, and your community. He asked if Sitkans were doing their part, noting that it had to start with the individual. He stated that Unified Command was not able to legislate citizens into doing what was correct, rather had to appeal to everyone’s good nature. He urged everyone to be kind to one another.

Dr. Bruhl, SEARHC CMO and Incident Commander reported through Warren that SEARHC hospital was keeping up with three to seven cases on the floor at any given day/time. He stated that SEARHC had consolidated testing which was in the parking lot across from the main entrance of the hospital between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Individuals may call the COVID-19 hotline at 966.8799 for questions. He relayed that there were ongoing vaccination clinics three times per week with openings on Friday, July 22, 2021.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing reported that people had been taking advantage of the new/expanded COVID-19 testing times with over 100 people testing each day. She urged those to follow the high alert suggested mitigations, be kind to one another, test when symptomatic, and stated that we would get through this together.

Planning Section Chief Rob Janik reminded that testing remained available for symptomatic, exposed, and asymptomatic individuals. He stated if a patient had insurance, it would be billed with no co-pay required. He stated there were zero out of pocket costs regardless of insurance. He urged those to get tested if symptomatic. He stated that EMS handling capacity was okay, although at the top end of being able to handle. He said that operations were much busier and that plans, capacities, and training that had happened in the last 18 months had been useful.

Public Information Officers Melissa Henshaw and Jessica Ieremia reported on the ramp up of social media posts, relayed information from Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) statewide calls, and calls, concerns, and suggestions from citizens.

Sitka School District Superintendent Frank Hauser told of the close monitoring and work with public health officials as they plan for in person school in the fall. He noted the layers of mitigations that would be in place that also served well last year. He said the district had applied for grants for weekly optional COVID-19 testing and told of the installation of ozone free units in all the school buildings that would aid in air purification.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School reported their continued work on their COVID-19 plan for late August and were incorporating new CDC guidelines with plans on operating in the High Alert Level.

Adam Kersch, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) COVID Coordinator stated that STA had continued to monitor the High Alert Level situation. He stated they advised employees to hunker down, limit trips outside of their home, and generally limit interactions with others outside their household. He said they continued to encourage tribal citizens to get vaccinated. He relayed that the STA offices were closed to the public except by appointment as well as the Pull Tab and Bingo Hall were closed for the time being. He stated most employees were working from home.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported continued Friday vaccination clinics. She thanked SEARHC for their expanded vaccination hours. She stated that vaccination clinics were next to Harry Race Pharmacy in the vacant 57 Peaks location. Enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race Pharmacy and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/.

Due to the High Alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends continued mitigation: face masks are strongly encouraged for individuals regardless of vaccination status, maintaining physical distance of 6 feet along with following CDC guidelines CDC Guidelines.

We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others. In addition, get tested but 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. 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 Sitka Emergency Unified Command continues to urge citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race Pharmacy and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated to be safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus. Being vaccinated is the best way to protect our community.

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.

# # #

NEWS RELEASE: July 14 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES POSITIVE COVID-19 CASE RATE INCREASE

FACE MASKS STRONGLY ENCOURAGED FOR INDIVIDUALS REGARDLESS OF VACCINATION STATUS

SITKA, July 14, 2021  – Incident Commander, Craig Warren told of the case rate increase. A total of 60 new positive COVID-19 cases were seen with 18 considered breakthrough in the last week. A breakthrough infection defined as the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antigen in a respiratory specimen collected from a person 14 or more days after they have completed all recommended doses of a vaccine. He warned that not only was Sitka the high alert level, but this was also the highest rates we had ever seen. He stated that more individuals were showing symptoms. He told of the message that he and Dr. Bruhl conveyed to the Assembly at their meeting on July 13th on how to be safe regardless of vaccination status, which was to social distance, wear a mask, and consult a healthcare provider on the vaccination.  

Dr. Bruhl, SEARHC CMO and Incident Commander stated the need for folks to get fully vaccinated. He said that getting the second dose in a 2-dose series made a big different in the effectiveness. He stated that vaccine safety was well established. He noted that individuals were doing well with the vaccine, and he praised those that have been vaccinated and Sitka’s high vaccine rate. He said that it showed when you had a variant that was more transmittable and by having unvaccinated groups associating with each other, it led to an outbreak. He emphasized; the effectiveness of the vaccine was high. Within the last few weeks, it had been documented that the COVID-19 vaccine had been proven to be 79-88% effective and that they were highly effective in preventing serious disease which prevented hospitalizations and deaths. He stated no one had been admitted to the hospital in the last day and the number of discharged patients was 4-5 in the last few days.

Dr. Bruhl reminded regardless of vaccination status, if someone had symptoms, they should get tested. He stated that SEARHC had walk up testing at a structure behind the Emergency Department seven days a week at noon until 3:00 p.m. He asked that those who showed symptoms such as fever, aching, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and sometimes decreased sense of taste and smell to call Urgent Care at 747.1722.

Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing stated she had been busy the last two weeks and that the State brought on extra employees for contact tracing along with UAA and other sources such as National Guard assistance which had been a great resource. She noted the complications of the State employment when case count numbers were under control there was an excess of 500 employees which were cut back in stages, but then it caused a limited number of employees to assist in contact tracing. She had been working with other communities to get assistance in this recent Sitka surge.

She did not think the surge was going away anytime soon and thanked everyone for their patience as there were only two at Public Health handling the increase in cases. She said Public Health had been spending many hours managing information coming in and calls for contact tracing. She stated that Public Health was still able to vaccinate but that they had scaled back as there were other avenues to obtain the vaccine and they were focusing on other tasks although seafood plant employees had been coming in to receive vaccines.

She encouraged those to take advantage of the testing noting the many opportunities. She stated it was crucial in order to flatten the curve and said to test as soon as you know that you have been around someone that was COVID-19 positive especially with the variance that was suspected in the community in order to keep safe. She said it was contagious and symptoms lasted longer but that the vaccine was working as it was intended to prevent hospitalizations and to reduce symptoms. She stated vaccination was important along with wearing a mask and social distance regardless of vaccination status while in high alert level. She said that mitigations should be taken when around others that were travelling and others that were not in your immediate bubble to keep safe until this surge passed.

Public Information Officers, Melissa Henshaw and Jessica Ieremia reported they had been ramping up social media posts and the calls received had been a variety of questions although minimal.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist said that the next vaccine clinic for Friday was over 70% of first doses in a two series vaccine and urged those to get an appointment if they did not have one by visiting www.sitkapharmacies.com or by going to the SEARHC site at https://covid19.searhc.org/.

Adam Kersch with Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) relayed that STA had reinstated a masking policy and remote working for employees. He stated the bingo hall was closed for the next two weeks and that STA was encouraging vaccinations.

Finance Section Chief Melisa Haley reminded that she was proceeding with closing out the FEMA project but that if there were any additional overtime or restructure for call outs, it would be charged to the operating budget and to notify her if there were any significate costs.

Sitka School District Superintendent Frank Hauser stated this was his first meeting. He said that the School District was monitoring the surge closely as well as CDC guidelines and was working with Public Health and others. The School District was looking at protocols as there were students in the schools currently and were following protocols for wearing masks.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School said that they were monitoring CDC guidelines and were making additional changes for when all students returned in the fall.

Due to the High Alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends continued mitigation: face masks are strongly encouraged for individuals regardless of vaccination status, maintaining physical distance of 6 feet along with following CDC guidelines CDC Guidelines.

We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others. In addition, get tested but 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. 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 Sitka Emergency Unified Command continues to urge citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race Pharmacy and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated to be safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus. Being vaccinated is the best way to protect our community.

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.

# # #

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: July 4 – July 10, 2021

Alaska Weekly Update

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
July 4 — July 10, 2021

Increasing Statewide transmission
Rt 1.18
Intermediate Statewide alert status
6.4
Adequate Hospital capacityIntermediate Test positivity
2.5%
56%
Alaskans 12 years and older are vaccinated
Red- Rt >1.2
Orange- Rt 1-1.2 Yellow- Rt <1
Red- 14-day average case rate per 100,000 >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 12 and older of 607,022 from the Alaska Department of Labor

Case Trends

  • Overall, the number of identified cases of COVID-19 in Alaska increased last week compared to the previous week. This is the fourth week in a row of week-over-week increases.

  • 368 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a 31.0% increase from the week before.
  • The largest changes were in the Kusilvak Census Area where the number of new cases decreased last week compared to the previous week and in Anchorage, Sitka, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough where the number of cases increased.
  • In most Boroughs and Census Areas there is not clear evidence of either sustained increases or decreases. We expect considerable week-to-week variation, especially in less-populous areas.
  • The total number of reported nonresident cases increased by 30 this week for a total of 2,954.

Regional Alert Level Trends

  • Alert levels are based on the daily average number of reported cases over the past 14 days per 100,000 population.
Behavioral Health RegionAlert Level
June 14
Alert Level June 21Alert Level June 28Alert Level July 7Alert Level July 12
Anchorage Municipality2.53.65.17.69.4
Fairbanks North Star Borough1.81.71.20.81.3
Interior Region except Fairbanks9.58.64.33.17.7
Juneau City and Borough7.03.41.63.13.6
Kenai Peninsula Borough3.01.91.73.57.0
Matanuska-Susitna Region3.62.63.53.12.8
Northern Southeast Region2.53.23.25.613.7
Northwest Region5.54.04.56.63.2
Southern Southeast Region10.86.13.32.94.0
Southwest Region3.32.82.8**1.5
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region5.212.123.117.614.0
Statewide3.53.54.35.26.4

** Rates based on <6 observations are not reported

Vaccination Status

  • Anyone aged ≥12 years in Alaska is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have received an initial dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to get your second dose too. Evidence suggests two doses of an mRNA vaccine are more effective than one dose of an mRNA vaccine, especially against emerging variants of concern.
  • Vaccinated persons with immunocompromising conditions should discuss with their health care providers the need for personal protective measures.
  • The Food and Drug Administration updated the fact sheets on the Johnson and Johnson / Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to note that cases of Guillain Barré syndrome have occurred rarely among persons mostly within 42 days of receiving the vaccine. There is not evidence of an association between mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) and Guillain Barré syndrome.
  • To schedule your vaccine appointment visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.
  • You can also visit vaccines.gov or find clinics in your area by texting your zip code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish.
  • The Alaska vaccine dashboard is available online for the most up-to-date data.

Regional Vaccine Coverage:

  • This is the percent of Alaskans aged 12+ who received one or more dose of vaccine.
Borough/Census AreaJuly 12
Aleutians East Borough86.3%
Aleutians West Census Area69.9%
Anchorage Municipality59.4%
Bethel Census Area72.2%
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula85.4%
Denali Borough66.0%
Dillingham Census Area59.0%
Fairbanks North Star Borough48.4%
Haines Borough69.3%
Juneau City and Borough76.9%
Kenai Peninsula Borough46.2%
Ketchikan Gateway Borough65.2%
Kodiak Island Borough64.7%
Kusilvak Census Area76.6%
Matanuska-Susitna Borough38.8%
Nome Census Area80.3%
North Slope Borough36.5%
Northwest Arctic Borough61.1%
Petersburg Borough64.6%
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area66.2%
Sitka City and Borough73.7%
Skagway Municipality81.1%
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area32.4%
Valdez-Cordova Census Area60.7%
Wrangell City and Borough61.3%
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon76.6%
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area77.3%
Statewide56%

New Hospitalizations and Deaths

  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 19 to 1,643. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
  • Four deaths were reported this week, with an overall cumulative death count of 374. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during July 4—July 10 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.

Variant Tracking

Variants of ConcernCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Alpha (B.1.1.7)384+2120 December 2020
Beta (B.1.351)7020 March 2021
Gamma (P.1/P.1.1/P.1.2)65+68 February 2021
Delta (B.1.617.2-like)58+2130 May 2021
 
Variants of InterestCases IdentifiedChange from Previous ReportFirst Identified in Alaska
Epsilon (B.1.427/429)138+124 December 2020
Eta (B.1.525)1016 March 2021
Iota (B.1.526)29+24 February 2021
Zeta (P.2)4027 January 2021

Vaccine Breakthrough Cases

  • Vaccine breakthrough (VB) infections of COVID are those detected in a person who is at least 2 weeks beyond their second dose of a 2-dose series or the only dose of a 1-dose series.
  • From January 1–July 10, 2021, two deaths, 22 hospitalizations, and 752 cases resulting from a VB infection were reported among Alaska residents. These counts are provisional and subject to change as more data are compiled. In that same time frame, a total of 22,646 cases, 538 hospitalizations, and 86 deaths were reported.
  • 97% of all cases, 96% of all hospitalizations, and 98% of all deaths to date were in people who were not fully vaccinated. 
  • Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report.

Cases by Week Reported and Age

Cases by Week Reported and Race

Additional informational resources: The State of Alaska COVID-19 information page provides more information about the virus and how individuals and businesses can protect themselves and others from transmission For the most up-to-date case information, see the Alaska Coronavirus Response Hub dashboard: updated Monday – Friday at data.coronavirus.alaska.gov For DHSS media inquiries, please contact clinton.bennett@alaska.gov