NEWS RELEASE: December 29 Unified Command Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES OMICRON AND NEW CDC GUIDANCE

SITKA, December 29, 2021 – Incident Commander Craig Warren reported Unified Command was meeting every four weeks. He noted that Sitka had been in the high alert level since the end of November and was trending up quickly much like other places in the US. He stated it was most likely the Omicron variant but that had not been confirmed. He said Omicron was more transmittable, but that people were not getting quite as sick. He cautioned with the numbers going up though, there could be higher hospitalizations. He reminded the public to stay home if they were sick. He asked for vigilance as to not spread COVID. He stated the CDC had updated guidance of five days of quarantine rather than the ten days for those asymptomatic. He relayed there would be an update from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) tomorrow noting that the CDC may give recommendations rather than mandates for cruise travel. He reminded if you were sick, do not go to school or work and to wash your hands, mask up around others, and to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

Warren relayed for Dr. Bruhl, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Chief Medical Officer and Incident Commander of two COVID-19 positive patients at the hospital. The next vaccine clinic would be January 4 at Mountainside Urgent Care, 209 Moller Avenue from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with Pfizer for ages 5 to 11 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. A link to schedule an appointment would be advertised soon. For questions, call the COVID hotline at 907.966.8799.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing reported having the tools to fight Omicron by getting vaccinated and boosted, continue to mask, and test if you felt symptoms, had been around someone with COVID, or when travelling. SEARHC had testing at Mountainside Clinic, home test kits were available, two per family from Public Health (540 had been given out since Monday) and tests were available at Harry Race. She said that 800 test kits had been given to organizations. She relayed that there were 27 positive COVID cases today and 39 yesterday stating it was likely the Omicron variant but there were no results from sequencing yet. She relayed from the CDC that data was still out but there was a current increase of Omicron cases likely to lead to a national surge in the coming weeks.

Ewing reminded of the CDC guidance changes for people with COVID-19 if boosted or had completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last six months or completed the primary of Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last two months to wear a mask around others for 10 days, test on day five if possible and to stay home if symptoms develop. She stated for those that had COVID-19 and had completed the primary series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine that had been over six months and you were not boosted, or you completed the primary series of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over two months ago and were not boosted or not vaccinated to stay home for five days and continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days. She said if unable to quarantine, to wear a mask around others for ten days and test on day five if possible and if symptoms develop, stay home. The changes can be found by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/.

Trish White, Harry Race Pharmacist reported a full clinic on Friday with mostly booster doses, a few second doses, and about a dozen children. To get on the waitlist, visit http://www.sitkapharmacies.com. She stated the dates and times were listed on the website which also included the flu vaccine. She thanked Public Health for the test kits and was grateful to have a supply.

Thor Christianson, Logistics reported able to get most medical supplies although there were delays with anything that was manufactured in China.

Travis Miller, Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) reported continued office closure to the public and testing of staff every two weeks.

Public Information Officer Melissa Henshaw reported very few calls or emails. She told of social media posts with regards to the high alert level and the mask mandate, travel mitigation guidance, international travel requirements along with recommendations for quarantine and isolation.

Due to the High Alert Level in Sitka, Sitka Unified Command recommends continued mitigation: face coverings were 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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