NEWS RELEASE: September 8 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES DASHBOARD METRICS

SITKA, September 8, 2021 – Incident Commander Craig Warren reported concerned citizens that had contacted him regarding the new metrics on the City and Borough of Sitka (CBS) COVID-19 Dashboard. He reiterated that the metrics had always been provided by Public Health and the State Department of Health and Social Services Section of Epidemiology. He said that the numbers were never “owned” by the CBS and that the CBS does not have access to those numbers without the state supplying them. The State requested the CBS follow their model which was similar to the Center for Disease and Control’s model (CDC). He said the data posted by the CBS was the best that could be provided. He relayed that there would no longer be a breakdown of gender and age. He reminded that it was not that the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was hiding anything, and the numbers shown were given from the State.

He reported that several questions were being asked of the case rates. He said case rates were based on the State’s census of Sitka at 8,523 which were normalized to 100,000 so that there was universal data across the country. For CBS to get into the light blue low alert level it would mean that CBS would have to of had zero cases in the last 7 days; a moderate alert level would be 1 to 4 cases over the last 7 days; substantial alert level would be between 5 and 8 cases over the last 7 days and 9 or more cases over the 7 days was considered a high alert level.

Shoshauna Schmidt filling in for Dr. Bruhl, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander reported no inpatients with COVID-19 the morning of September 8. She told that SEARHC was awaiting formal guidance from federal and state agencies for the vaccine booster shot but that they were moving forward with their processes and would be ready; information about the booster can be found on the CDC website.

Thor Christianson, Logistics reported no changes in supplies, that he had heard from the public on the changes to the CBS COVID-19 Dashboard, and an ordinance for a mask mandate while in times of the high alert level would be on the next assembly agenda.

Public Information Officers Melissa Henshaw and Jessica Ieremia reported educational social media posting on vaccine approval and vaccination after having COVID-19 along with many CBS COVID-19 Dashboard calls, concerns, and questions.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) reported excitement of making it through their COVID-19 plan of a special strict alert level for the first 14 days that was planned regardless of the community alert level. This included quarantining for students for different periods of time and significant testing. She stated last week was the first week of weekly routine testing with no positive COVID-19 cases and a second week with a couple of positive results, so they were doing some close contacting, was executing their plan, and felt it was working. She recognized the Delta variant would be tricky but that it was important to keep to the plan in place. She informed that MEHS had not seen close contacts with positive results. She was hopeful that the plan would work in order to continue with in person learning.

Sitka School District (SSD) Superintendent Frank Hauser reported the SSD updated the alert levels to match the city and state’s models. He reminded that COVID-19 mitigation information could be found on the SSD website. He reminded that in this high alert level, masks for students and staff were required in schools. He said SSD encouraged those to wear masks over the holiday weekend and to test in school upon return. He asked those that felt like they had COVID-19 like symptoms, to stay home from school and test at SEARHC. He said there was no reported cases of secondary transmission in any school.

Anne Davis, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) reported continued testing of staff and that their offices remained closed.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported flu vaccines would be starting soon. She stated a COVID-19 vaccine clinic would take place on Friday next to Harry Race Pharmacy. She said hopefully by the end of September, the vaccine booster shot would be available and they were waiting for CDC guidance on it. Citizens may register for a vaccination clinic at Harry Race Pharmacy.  

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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