NEWS RELEASE: November 3 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND GIVES RECOMMENDATIONS AND UPDATES ON VACCINES

SITKA, November 3, 2021 – Incident Commander Craig Warren reported no current projects, Unified Command was and would continue to meet every few weeks in order to continue to keep member’s listed positions so that if issues were to arise, a meeting could come together quickly. He said we have been close to getting out of the high alert level and then we get a flare up. He encouraged residents to pay attention to their surroundings and that we were not through this. He relayed the rest of the country especially in the southeast was able to get below high and he would really like us to come together, think about the crowd around you, and maybe we could come through this. He thanked Mt. Edgecumbe High School for their polite, respectful students that were diligently wearing their masks.

Shoshauna Schmidt filling in for Dr. Bruhl, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander reported one COVID-19 positive patient at the hospital. She stated SEARHC was prepared to administer Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations for youth ages 5 to 11. She said vaccines would be available by appointment and a parent or care giver must accompany the child and noted that flu vaccines were available. She told of preregistration at https://covid19.searhc.org/ and of ongoing clinics at Harrigan Centennial Hall along with upcoming on Wednesday, November 10, and a children’s clinic on Tuesday, November 9 from Noon to 6:00 p.m.

Planning Section Chief Rob Janik reported monitoring and maintaining.

Thor Christianson, Logistics reported no problem getting PPE and had ordered gloves for the Police Department with no issues.

Public Information Officer Melissa Henshaw reported few calls with complaints on those not following the mask ordinance and continued social media posts.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) reported zero positive cases in the last two screenings at MEHS. She said over the last month only one individual was identified as a positive case which had zero spread. She felt that they were getting settled in with campus COVID-19 control. She relayed the students were feeling cooped up and that the students get excited when the level were close to dropping, but then there were spikes. She stated the COVID team was looking at their plan and despite the community alert level, they were identifying activities for students to interact in town to get off campus with additional mitigation. She said that some students would be in town on selected days, and they would start allowing students to go to the grocery store and specific activities that were supervised with strong mitigations in place. She was hoping to get down to significant alert level as a community, which would allow the students off campus more, but that in the meantime the community could expect to see students with specific activities on specific days.

Sitka School District (SSD) Superintendent Frank Hauser reported a week with zero COVID-19 positive cases associated with SSD buildings and that the district was into their second quarter of full-time in person learning. He thanked Dr. Bruhl for the successful mitigation plans and for the continued support of the schools. He thanked the parents for the kind words on the progress of the school year thus far with one mom who wrote that the SSD mitigations allowed her to feel good about saying yes to all activities in the school that her student wanted to participate in. He relayed mitigations with high levels of COVID-19 in our community, helped allowed students to do things they wanted to do, most important among those things was staying in school. He stated many parents were excited about the vaccine news this week which was now available to anyone 5 years and older. He reiterated that SSD does not require COVID-19 vaccinations. He read from Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, “We can think of all the protective measures as layers. Just like you wear layers when its cold outside, the colder it is the more you have to wear to stay warm. If there is a lot of virus in the community, the risk is high and we need a lot of layers of protection. If the level of virus is low, we need fewer layers. The vaccine is the best layer we have.” He said they would continue to monitor the situation in the community and would continue working with Dr. Bruhl and Public Health. They would adjust their layers accordingly with expected new guidance from CDC perhaps as early as December.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported pediatric doses coming in. She said there would be a special clinic for children next Friday, November 12 available by appointment and she told they were looking into having a weekend clinic for children. She said they would be holding COVID-19 booster shots along with the flu vaccine on Fridays and reported last Friday they administered 10 first dose shots. The public may sign up at http://www.sitkapharmacies.com.

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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