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.
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