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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