NEWS RELEASE: August 4 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES CONTINUED HIGH ALERT LEVEL AND HOSPITAL CAPACITY

SITKA, August 4, 2021 – Incident Commander Craig Warren reminded that just because someone tested positive for COVID-19, it did not mean that they were going to be in the hospital. He gave the example of positive cases on the dashboard today meant that it would be later in the week or into the following week of a patient possibly being admitted. He cautioned that there was only one hospital and although a very valuable facility, we needed to try to protect it, especially for other routine procedures. He told of an example of a broken leg and there not being capacity to be able to take care of you or your family member.

He reminded that there would be changes to the www.cityofsitka.org dashboard in the near future although the data would still be there.

Dr. Bruhl, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander reported that SEARHC’s demand for testing had decreased and their testing station hours would change beginning August 7 to the hours of noon to 3:00 p.m. and closed on Sunday. He stated the hospital had been busy in the last week to upwards of 11 patients with at least four medivacs out because of patients being very sick and limitations of oxygen supply. Patients had been sent to Anchorage facilities and Seattle facilities. He told of the stress and strain that the pandemic surge had on staff and that staff was doing a great job and working hard to keep up.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing stated that the State of Alaska announced that Delta had become the dominant variant. She said that cases had declined in Sitka and stressed the need for individuals to continue testing and to increase testing to have an accurate view. She stated that testing had decreased in the last two weeks and figured that was why the numbers had started to decline. She said that if exposed, fully vaccinated individuals did not have to quarantine but should test 3 to 5 days after exposure, wear a mask, and monitor symptoms for 14 days. She relayed CDC updates of the recommendation for all individuals to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status which was in line with the face covering ordinance in Sitka as well.

Public Information Officers Melissa Henshaw and Jessica Ieremia reported calls were coming in daily mostly regarding travel questions. Henshaw told of the dispersing of the face covering required ordinance and that materials were available for printing and posting. She said there were continued social media posts that included information on testing, masking, and information on the Delta variant. She relayed information from the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) weekly public information call that Alaska had continued to increase in positive cases week over week. She told of DHSS changes forthcoming on their dashboard that included alert level changes and indication at the borough and census levels, and the rolling day average to 7 days instead of 14.

Planning Section Chief Rob Janik informed that there were 2 to 3 COVID-19 patients per day for ambulance for the last week which was anticipated through the end of August given the offset of the curves between diagnosis and hospitalization. He stated they were paying attention to conservation of supplies because they were limited. He said they were trying to have a sense of what was happening at the ground level and anticipating any possible changes that would need to be made in order to continue to offer the same level of service. He cautioned false optimism and that just because the numbers went down, it was a snapshot and in order to figure out if it was a dip or a lowering in the case rate would only be able to be said retrospectively.

Sitka School District Superintendent Frank Hauser reported the continuation of preparing for the upcoming school year of in person instruction in the fall. He said layered mitigation protocols would continue from those that were pioneered last year. He told of aligning district alert levels with the City and Borough of Sitka. Hauser stated that there would be listening sessions for staff and families next week.

Anne Davis, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) stated that their employees working from home policy was extended an additional two weeks and that their offices were closed to the public.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported the last Friday clinic had gone well with 39 vaccinations given out and that many fishermen were there to get the Janssen COVID-19 (Johnson and Johnson) one dose vaccine. She stated that Friday’s upcoming clinic had 33 individuals signed up and that they had all three vaccines available. Citizens may register for a vaccination clinic at Harry Race Pharmacy.  

Finance Section Chief Melissa Haley reported she was in the final stages of the final close out with FEMA.

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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COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Case Update: July 25 – July 31, 2021

Alaska Weekly Update

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update
July 25 — July 31, 2021

HIGH Statewide transmission
Rt 1.32
HIGH Statewide alert status
30.3
Limited Hospital capacityIntermediate Test positivity
6.0%
57.8%
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 31st and August 1st 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 an upwards trajectory.

  • 1,597 cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is an 18% increase from the week before. This is the seventh 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 (e.g., Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area and Ketchikan Gateway Borough), most parts of the state on the road system (including Kenai Peninsula Borough, Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and Fairbanks North Star Borough), and some parts of rural Alaska (e.g., Northwest Arctic Borough).
  • The number of new reported cases declined in Sitka.
  • The Delta variant has become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in Alaska. This variant transmits more easily than other variants.

Updated COVID-19 Guidance

  • 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.
  • If you do test positive, isolate right away and notify your contacts. Ask them to get tested and, if they are unvaccinated, to quarantine.
  • Monoclonal antibody treatments are effective and reduce the risk of hospitalization. If you have COVID-19 or are a close contact, talk to a healthcare provider about whether treatment may be right for you. The treatments work best when given early.
  • CDC recommends that all persons in areas with substantial or high community transmission wear a mask when in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Most Alaskans live in an area with substantial or high community transmission as classified by the CDC.
  • Fully vaccinated persons who are close contacts to someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine but should get tested 3 to 5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor areas for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

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.
  • Starting next week, alert levels will be changed to more closely mirror CDC’s community transmission indicator and will be calculated by borough and census area, rather than by region.
Behavioral Health RegionAlert Level July 12Alert Level
July 19
Alert Level July 26Alert Level August 2
Anchorage Municipality9.417.325.631.4
Fairbanks North Star Borough1.32.46.712.4
Interior Region except Fairbanks7.719.440.353.8
Juneau City and Borough3.66.724.536.2
Kenai Peninsula Borough7.018.735.447.3
Matanuska-Susitna Region2.85.511.919.0
Northern Southeast Region13.751.199.193.5
Northwest Region3.22.67.118.4
Southern Southeast Region4.04.06.126.7
Southwest Region1.56.320.528.3
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region14.012.422.334.4
Statewide6.412.722.830.3

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 AreaAugust 2
Aleutians East Borough87.1%
Aleutians West Census Area71.2%
Anchorage Municipality61.6%
Bethel Census Area74.0%
Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula90.1%
Denali Borough67.5%
Dillingham Census Area60.3%
Fairbanks North Star Borough49.9%
Haines Borough71.8%
Juneau City and Borough78.6%
Kenai Peninsula Borough47.8%
Ketchikan Gateway Borough66.5%
Kodiak Island Borough66.6%
Kusilvak Census Area78.7%
Matanuska-Susitna Borough40.5%
Nome Census Area81.9%
North Slope Borough37.7%
Northwest Arctic Borough62.7%
Petersburg Borough66.1%
Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area67.0%
Sitka City and Borough76.7%
Skagway Municipality83.7%
Southeast Fairbanks Census Area33.3%
Valdez-Cordova Census Area62.7%
Wrangell City and Borough61.8%
Yakutat plus Hoonah-Angoon77.6%
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area78.9%
Statewide57.8%

New Hospitalizations and Deaths

  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased by 38 to 1,732. Hospitalization reports often lag when a case was initially reported.
  • 11.1% of hospitalized patients in Alaska had COVID-19 as of August 2, 2021.
  • On July 31st, there were 103 persons with COVID-19 in AK hospitals, which is a 6% increase relative to the week before when there were 97 persons hospitalized.
  • The cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths among Alaska residents increased by 5 to 382. It is common to take some time for a death to be reported and verified, and deaths that occurred during July 25-July 31 may be reported in the future after death certificates are reviewed.

Total Confirmed COVID Beds Occupied

Variant Tracking

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 31, 2021, three deaths, 40 hospitalizations, and 1,678 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 26,482 cases, 627 hospitalizations, and 94 deaths were reported.
  • 94% of all cases, 94% of all hospitalizations, and 97% of deaths among Alaska residents from January 1 through July 31, 2021 were in people who were not fully vaccinated. 
  • Specimens from VB infections are described in the weekly Alaska Genomics Report.

Communication Resources

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