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.

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