NEWS RELEASE: December 1 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND TALKS DHSS COVID-19 DASHBOARD CHANGES AND VACCINATIONS

SITKA, December 1, 2021 – Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing reported Pfizer vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 had been going well. She had been and would continue to travel to small rural communities to vaccinate. She stated all seafood plants had their vaccinations. She noted that the case count had been fluctuating and was doing so without having a select group of people or organizations, but rather it was family units and travel related.

Shoshauna Schmidt filling in for Dr. Bruhl, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander reported zero COVID-19 positive patients at the hospital.

Public Information Officers Melissa Henshaw and Jessica Ieremia relayed information from the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) with regards to their COVID-19 dashboard beginning December 6 of being updated on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday only. DHSS stated that the change was being made for sustainability of staff and because weekly data was more helpful for understanding trends. Henshaw told of social media posts with regards to the changing alert levels and mask mandate among others. Ieremia stated an uptick in questions for callers of where to find testing especially with rapid testing for events.

Thor Christianson, Logistics reported some supply chain issues and long lead times especially with regards to defibrillator pads.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) reported zero positive cases on campus this week. She stated nearly all students stayed on campus for the holiday. She noted extensive testing would take place next week to make sure to catch any COVID-19 positive cases prior to the holiday break in order to manage it. The plan would be for all students to go home for the holiday without delay.

Sitka School District (SSD) Superintendent Frank Hauser thanked the SSD bus drivers and city crews for the snow removal and sanding of the roads. He reported zero COVID-19 positive cases associated with SSD buildings. He stated students were in person and learning and enjoying the snow at recess. They were waiting for more information of changes from the state as heard about at the recent Assembly meeting which may have a favorable impact on the alert levels moving forward in the new year.

Travis Miller, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) reported continued testing of staff and status quo.

Henshaw for Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported lots of booster doses and younger children vaccinations with about 2 to 3 of first time doses at every clinic. Clinics were being held each Friday, but they would probably take off Christmas Eve. The public may sign up at http://www.sitkapharmacies.com.

Incident Commander Craig Warren reported Unified Command was and would continue to meet every few weeks so that if issues were to arise, a meeting could come together quickly.

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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