August 18 News Release: Unified Command Weekly Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES RECENT COVID UPTICK AND BOOSTER SHOTS

SITKA, August 18, 2021 – Rob Janik, Acting Incident Commander reported a slight uptick in the case rate over the past weekend. Unfortunately, Sitka’s steady decline has not remained. The City and Borough of Sitka (CBS) and Public Health have ramped up their efforts to increase access to testing for asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals so positive cases can be quickly identified.

Janik, commended local Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing for her efforts working with different organizations to control outbreaks. The CBS and Public Health met August 17 with North Pacific Seafoods to discuss a recent outbreak at Sitka Sound Seafoods.  Janik shared their corporate response had been excellent.

Janik addressed public inquiries questioning possible local COVID-19 deaths that had not been recorded on the CBS Dashboard. Unified Command and Public Health only record a death once it has been declared a COVID death by the State of Alaska. This can be a slow process.  

Starting September 1, 2021, Janik announced the CBS will change its reporting model on the Dashboard to parallel the Department of Health and Social Services model. The City of Sitka will transition from a 14-day case count per a 10,000 population to a 7- day case count per a 100,000 population.

Thor Christianson, Logistics mentioned the mask mandate would be back on the agenda at the August 24 Assembly meeting to extend the mandate through September 28.

Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing reported over the weekend there was a spike in cases due to an outbreak at one of the seafood plants.  The Vice President of North Pacific Seafoods was planning a press release in the Sitka Sentinel detailing the occurrence. Ewing commented that it had been a fine line reporting information and keeping private information confidential. North Pacific Seafoods had several COVID positive employees and worked quickly with Ewing to come up with a mitigation strategy for housing, quarantining and isolating individuals along with shutting down different areas of the plant and diverting fish to keep everyone safe.

It was reported over 80% of North Pacific Seafoods employees had been vaccinated and were following recommended mitigation strategies to keep the community and staff safe. Ewing reminded due to the aggressive nature of the Delta variant, even when everything was done right, people could still get infected, and outbreaks could occur. Due to a good mitigation strategy North Pacific Seafoods was able to keep it from spreading. The plant was being proactive and planned to have a nurse practitioner onsite.

Ewing stated in mid- September, booster shots would be available to those individuals age 18 years and older who had received their last vaccination shot 8 months earlier. It was recommended individuals stay with the same manufacturer as their initial doses. The State was working on plans with other providers on how to roll the plan out to the public. It was anticipated the plan would mirror the initial rollout with the most vulnerable receiving their booster shots first.

Reporting for Trish White, Harry Race and White’s Pharmacy, Janik shared they would offer all three vaccines Friday, August 20, 2021, at 102 Lincoln Street location in the Harry Race Building. Appointments for the booster shot would be available starting Friday, August 27, 2021. Go to https://www.sitkapharmacies.com/covid-19 or call 907-206-2202 for questions and concerns.

The Jansen J&J vaccine is not eligible at this time for a booster shot.

Superintendent of Sitka School District, Frank Hauser welcomed back all students next week and relayed schools would be operating at a HIGH-risk level; the same as CBS. Masks would be required for staff and students. Hauser noted the School District was following the CBS alert level system.  Hauser thanked Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing and Dr. Bruhl for the continued support on the return to school mitigation plans.

Public Information Officers, Jessica Ieremia & Melissa Henshaw noted the Assembly’s Citation honoring Sitka’s Healthcare Professionals, First Responders, and Frontline workers.

Due to the High Alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends continued mitigation: face coverings 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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