UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES CASE RATE DECLINE AND DASHBOARD IMPLEMENTATION
SITKA, September 1, 2021 – Deputy Incident Commander Rob Janik reported the case rate continued to decline which was reassuring. He said it was attributed to mitigation measures that the businesses, citizens, and visitors have enacted along with the increase in vaccination that has been seen in the spike since the beginning of July. He thanked and gave appreciation from the response of those that made the community safer. He reminded of the transitions of a new reporting model that would take place September 1 to incorporate changes to the City and Borough of Sitka’s COVID-19 Dashboard. He reported that the mitigation guidance had been refined and it would be published for recommended steps for each level of risk.
Dr. Bruhl, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander stated it was good to see the overall case number in Sitka declining. He told of regional increased cases in Juneau and Klawock. He said the hospital in Sitka had not had large numbers of hospitalizations and that it was intermittently one or two patients for COVID-19 related issues. He told of the continued problem, especially in the Anchorage area, that many hospitals were full and not able to accept patients and transfers which could be an issue if Sitka had sick people that needed to be transferred. He stated they had been able to find other places to transfer to and gave the example of Seattle or other locations in Alaska. He said some patients have struggled in terms of lengths of time in the hospital. Overall, the situation in the state continued to affect the ability to provide care in smaller communities.
He said that testing continued to be available in the consolidated area across from the hospital between the hours of noon and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
He reported that SEARHC had been able to get a supply of BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card point of care tests and shared them with the Sitka School District and were available to Mt. Edgecumbe High School. He stated SEARHC had been providing vaccines to patients who were immunocompromised, that medical staff was working with patients to get them in, and they had given over 150 in the last week. He stated that it was considered a third vaccine and not a booster. He reported the continued complex and slightly conflicting information coming from US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about booster vaccines. He said the core information was that booster vaccines would be offered throughout the country starting September 20. SEARHC had been working diligently to accommodate for it. He noted the future opportunity to use a QR code to register for it.
He felt that the big message that came out of the CDC was that the Delta variant had not been vaccine failure and that those unvaccinated were ending up in the hospital, very sick, and even dying. He noted a statewide call last week that Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) had not had a single admission to the ICU for a COVID-19 patient that was vaccinated. He said that not that it couldn’t happen, but that the unvaccinated accounted for 95 to 97% of all hospitalizations in the Anchorage area which was affecting the healthcare system.
He felt there was an opportunity for everyone to encourage people to get the vaccine. He said it had been given to billions of people, hundreds of thousands in North America with not many significant side effects. He relayed that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists were now strongly recommending pregnant and lactating women get vaccinated. The vaccine was available, and he encouraged those who were not yet vaccinated to carefully consider getting vaccinated.
Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing reported cases continued to trend down and stated to keep up the awesome work that everyone was doing. She said plan on getting vaccinated noting it was not too late and encouraged those to finish their series if they hadn’t. She said to continue to wear masks, distance and plan for the booster shot to be taken 8 months after the second dose. She said that more information would come as time progressed about the booster.
Thor Christianson, Logistics reported medical supplies remained easy to get but no purchases had been made. As Assembly Liaison, he told of an ordinance that would be at the next Assembly meeting on September 14 mandating masks for when the Sitka Emergency Operations Center risk level was in high alert.
Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) reported making it through the first phase of entrance for students. She thanked SEARHC, the health clinic at Mt. Edgecumbe for the level of care and amount of testing along with checking in on those that had been identified as COVID-19 positive, and she thanked Public Health as well. She stated excitement with their plan and different levels of quarantine with 10 positive cases and very little spread among their own population and no outbreaks. She said most students were back to in person learning except those that had close contact with a COVID-19 positive case, late arrival, and those still quarantining. She reported they would continue with heightened mitigation through the week and then would shift into the plan of following the risk level of the community.
Sitka School District Superintendent Frank Hauser reported that students in the district were in class and learning. He stated pleased with the progress of the school year thus far. He reminded of the three-day weekend and to wear masks, asking everyone to do their part so that there wouldn’t be a spike like from the fourth of July. He said he would be speaking at the School Board meeting about the new 7-day alert level calculations. He thanked Public Health and SEARHC for their continued support.
Anne Davis, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) reported status quo for STA of remote work for staff and offices closed to the public. She told of mandatory COVID-19 testing for staff and that they were monitoring things closely.
Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported a vaccine clinic would take place on Friday next to Harry Race Pharmacy with a few first, many second, and a few third dose vaccines scheduled. She said soon a flu vaccine clinic would take place on Friday afternoons. She relayed that after September 20th a booster would be available to be administered 8 months out from the second dose. She said they had administered about 12 first dose vaccines since the spike from the beginning of July. Citizens may register for a vaccination clinic at Harry Race Pharmacy.
Due to the High alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends coninued 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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