January 13 News Release: Unified Command’s Weekly Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC’S CONTINUED SUPPORT OF MASK WEARING AND HANDWASHING

SITKA, January 13, 2020  – Incident Commander, John Leach highlighted that the second round of vaccinations are in progress and has been completed for a good number of people in Sitka. Requests have been made to have our local vaccination data shared on the COVID 19 Dashboard.  Leach stated Sitka will work on providing our local vaccine allocation data for public viewing. The State of Alaska reports vaccination data on their dashboard and can be viewed at State of Alaska Vaccine Monitoring Dashboard. Leach thanked the community and members of the EOC for everyone’s cooperation and continued support. 

Jay Sweeney, Finance Section Chief gave an update on FEMA projects.

Public Information Officers, Sara Peterson and Jessica Ieremia shared the State of Alaska’s urgency for the public to continue to wear masks, wash hands and social distance once they have been vaccinated. Until the type of protection, the vaccine offers us is understood we need to keep up our mitigation measures and not change our behaviors yet.

Public Health Nurse, Denise Ewing gave a case report and said we are seeing an uptick from holiday gatherings and travel.

Harry Race Pharmacist, Trish White said this morning, January 13, they had a successful vaccination clinic and gave 55 inoculations of Moderna vaccine. White thanked the Sitka Firehall for their assistance which helps to make their clinics so successful.  White stated they will mainly be using Moderna vaccine due to ease of transportation and storage.  The next clinic takes place Wednesday, January 20.

Amy Ainslie, Unit Resource Leader continues to monitor the Sitka COVID Conscious Business Program. There are five businesses that have applied and received the certification. If a business is interested in applying for the program go to cityofsitka.org and click on the Sitka COVID Conscious Business Program link at the top of the page.

Maegan Bosak, SEARHC Liaison reported that SEARHC continues to recommend if you are interested in receiving a vaccine to register online at covid19.SEARHC.org. At registration it is very important to make sure that you have a valid email address entered. This email address will be used to send a link for you to schedule when the vaccine becomes available and your sequence is up. Additional vaccine is coming to town this week. Any questions about SEARHC’s sequencing or FAQs go to covid19.SEARHC.org.

SEARHC Incident Commander, Dr Bruhl urged individuals 75+ who have not yet received a first vaccine to please register. He noted that SEARHC was currently giving first dose vaccines to 65+ and front-line workers.

SEARHC continues to do surveillance testing of all vaccinated staff and requires staff to use personal protective equipment. For everyone who has been vaccinated, the pandemic is not over. The vaccine offers additional protection to serious illness and death. Data is being collected as we vaccinate millions and millions of people and we cannot begin to change our behaviors yet. People are dying by the thousands every day. SEARHC continues to urge Sitkans to wear masks, keep our distance and wash our hands.

John Holst, Superintendent for Sitka School District reported schools opened on Monday, January 11. The Schools will continue to work with the Public Health Nurse and watch the case numbers closely. Currently they are not considering closing the buildings.

Janelle Vanasse, Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School said over 300 kids have returned to campus. Whenever kids return to campus the school goes into High Alert level. Kids are on campus and in quarantine till January 13.  A couple kids have returned to campus with positive test results and are being isolated from the rest of the students. Vanasse thanked the local businesses that have become certified as COVID Conscious. The school hopes the City will go into low risk again and they will watch out for which businesses participate in this program for the safety of their students.

Unified Command recommends citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at Harry Race COVID Vaccination Tier3 Bookings and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/.

We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others and keeping your social circle small. In addition, 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 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  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 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 cityofsitka.org or covid19.searhc.org.

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Reminder: Register for a COVID-19 Vaccine

Currently there are two options for COVID-19 vaccine registration in Sitka.

The State of Alaska, in collaboration with Harry Race Pharmacy, is distributing vaccines based on CDC and State guidelines. Registration is now open for healthcare workers and individuals age 65+. To schedule an appointment, call 1-907-646-3322 or visit: https://outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/HarryRacePharmacy1@whitesalaska.com/bookings/

A vaccine is also available through SEARHC. Registration is available to all residents at https://covid19.searhc.org/. The SEARHC COVID-19 sequencing follows guidelines from the CDC and State of Alaska. Sequencing groups will be announced through public service announcements.  As sequencing groups open, eligible individuals will receive an email from SEARHC to schedule a vaccine appointment.  Currently, SEARHC is scheduling those age 65 and older and essential workers. New clinics will be added as vaccine supply arrives.

Please assist your Elders and family members with online vaccine registration. In time, everyone who would like to get vaccinated will be able to.

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Weekly Case Update January 3 – January 9, 2021

Status report

  • The daily growth rate of viral transmission in Alaska reversed from 0.26% to -4.2% during December, indicating a general downward trajectory during that time period. However, in the last week the trajectory has flattened out and the growth rate increased to -2.8%, raising concern for an uptick in transmission.
  • Every Alaskan who chooses to wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, and avoid indoor gatherings contributes to the response effort.
  • The statewide effort to provide every Alaskan with the option of receiving a vaccine as soon as supply allows is ongoing. Two vaccines for COVID-19 have received FDA emergency use authorization and are currently being distributed in Alaska.
  • Currently eligible groups for vaccination include those in Phase 1a: healthcare workers and residents in nursing homes, and those in Phase 1a Tier 1, Alaskans aged 65 or older. Other groups in Phase 1b may not register at this time but may register as soon as vaccination opens for their phase and tier. All registration for vaccines should go through the registration system on covidvax.alaska.gov, which also has an eligibility tool for any Alaskan unsure of when they can receive the vaccine. All updates on phases and tiers will be posted on that website and new appointments are added on a continuous basis; Alaskans are encouraged to check it frequently.
  • Several new variants of the virus causing COVID-19 have been reported, including one in the United Kingdom (UK), one in South Africa and one from Brazil. The UK variant appears to spread faster but does not appear to cause more severe disease. As of 1/10/2021, cases of the UK variant have been confirmed in multiple regions of the United States. None have yet been found in Alaska. CDC is monitoring the new variants and encouraging states to do more sequencing. The Alaska State Public Health Laboratories routinely sequence a subset of positive SARS-CoV-2 tests including all that contain the pattern associated with the UK strain.
  • Alaska Health Order 6 requires, at minimum, a test within 72 hours before arrival and strict social distancing for five days on arrival to Alaska. To stop new strains of virus like the UK strain from coming into Alaska and spreading, testing 1-3 days before travel, staying home for 7 days after travel and testing again 3-5 days after travel as laid out in the new CDC guidelines for international and domestic travel is highly encouraged. Starting Jan 26, 2021, the CDC will require international travelers to show proof of a negative test from within the last 72 hours on arrival back in the US.
  • CDC guidelines recommend regular testing for critical infrastructure workers and other groups at higher risk for COVID-19, even if they are asymptomatic. While testing should continue to be prioritized for people with symptoms and those with known exposures to COVID-19, expanding screening testing to many groups, including restaurant and grocery store workers, school staff, people who recently attended large gatherings, first responders, and healthcare workers is recommended. While these recommendations are not requirements for testing, DHSS is available to consult on the logistics of expanding testing.
  • Alaskans should get tested immediately at the first sign of any symptoms. Tests work best when obtained promptly after symptoms start. Testing early helps people know if they are positive quickly and helps prompt them to take immediate precautions to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
  • Most Alaskans get COVID-19 from a friend, family member, or coworker. Many Alaskans who are diagnosed with COVID-19 report that they went to social gatherings, community events, church services, and other social venues while they were contagious but before they knew they had the virus. Alaskans should avoid indoor gatherings with non-household members, avoid crowds, wear masks when around non-household members, and stay 6 feet from anyone not in their household.
  • As cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to increase across the United States, the safest way to connect with others is electronically. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.
  • Specific requirements for testing and strict social distancing apply to anyone returning to Alaska or traveling between the road/ferry system and smaller communities within Alaska. 
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Case trends and predictions

  • 2,107 new cases were reported in Alaskans last week. This is a small increase from the week before and reflects continued high-level community transmission throughout much of Alaska.
  • 14-day average daily case rates remained similar to the previous week in many regions of Alaska. A large increase was seen in the Northwest Region, from 25.3 to 46.6. Smaller increases were also seen in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (YK) Region, the Fairbanks and Interior Regions, and the Southeast Regions. All regions of Alaska other than the Northern Southeast Region and Juneau City and Borough continue to have high community transmission and are at a high alert level.
  • The estimated statewide daily growth rate as of January 11, 2021 is -2.8% and new cases are expected to halve every 24 days based on current modeling, an increase from last week in which the growth rate was -4.2% and cases were expected to halve every 16 days.  
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Regional case trends

Behavioral Health RegionCase rates
Nov 22– Dec 5
Case rates
Nov 29– Dec 12*
Case rates
Dec 5– Dec 19
Case rates
Dec 13– Dec 26
Case rates
Dec 20– Jan 2
Case rates
Jan 3– Jan 9
Anchorage Municipality89.287.773.346.440.039.5
Fairbanks North Star Borough41.065.561.833.832.639.3
Interior Region except Fairbanks48.746.935.023.223.827.1
Juneau City and Borough23.523.717.014.713.67.4
Kenai Peninsula Borough105.775.560.740.022.319.2
Matanuska-Susitna Region154.4113.962.048.248.248.2
Northern Southeast Region27.219.215.012.67.07.7
Northwest Region65.668.258.936.525.346.6
Southern Southeast Region14.714.09.05.06.110.0
Southwest Region72.9117.289.050.942.535.8
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region172.9164.8158.073.3144.2152.8
Statewide89.785.865.241.138.639.8

*Note: case rates for Nov 29–Dec 12 reflect 2-week case rates through Dec 14

Vaccines status update

  • The State of Alaska is working with federal, local, Tribal, and military partners to ensure that the distribution of vaccine goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
  • A limited amount of vaccine is currently available with more expected to be delivered in the coming months. As of January 8, more than 25,000 COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Alaska. A tracker is available online as is a vaccine dashboard for up-to-date data.
  • There are no plans to mandate a vaccine at the state level.
  • The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is responsible for providing national recommendations for vaccine administration and allocation.

New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths

  • During the week of January 3 through January 9, 2021, 2,055 new Alaska cases were reported, a 3% increase from last week, for a total of 48,624 cumulative cases in Alaskans.
  • Cumulative hospitalizations increased to 1,080 with 15 reported as occurring this week. Hospitalization reports often lag and only 1,013 hospitalizations were reported at this time last week, so there are 67 hospitalizations newly reported this week including ones that began during previous weeks.
  • Deaths among Alaska residents increased by 6 (223 total). All but two deaths occurred prior to this past week. It is common to take more than a week for a death to be reported, and more deaths that occurred during Jan 3–Jan 9 may be reported in future.
  • There were 43 new nonresident cases identified this week, for a total of 1,594 cases.

Cases by week reported and age group

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update
COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Health care capacity

  • On January 10, 74 Alaskans with confirmed COVID-19 were hospitalized and 10 were reported to have required a mechanical ventilator.
  • Hospital staffing can change quickly, particularly if a community has many health workers impacted by COVID-19.

Total confirmed COVID-19 beds occupied

COVID-19 Alaska Weekly Update

Additional informational resources:

For DHSS media inquiries, please contact clinton.bennett@alaska.gov

Vaccine Registration Options in Sitka

Currently there are two options for COVID-19 vaccine registration in Sitka.

The State of Alaska, in collaboration with Harry Race Pharmacy, is distributing vaccines based on CDC and State guidelines. Registration is now open for healthcare workers and individuals age 65+. To schedule an appointment, call 1-907-646-3322 or visit: https://outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/COVIDVaccinationTier3@whitesalaska.com/bookings/.

A vaccine can also be obtained through SEARHC. The COVID-19 sequencing follows guidelines from the CDC and State of Alaska. Registration is available to all residents at https://covid19.searhc.org/. Sequencing groups will be announced through public service announcements. As sequencing groups open, eligible individuals will receive an email from SEARHC to schedule a vaccine appointment.

Please assist your Elders and family members with online vaccine registration. In time, everyone who would like to get vaccinated will be able to.

Alaska Vaccine Allocation Advisory Committee meets to take public testimony on Phase 1c

The Alaska Vaccine Allocation Advisory Committee (AVAAC) is meeting at 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11 to take public testimony on Phase 1c. This is a chance to have your opinions heard on the next group to become eligible for COVID-19 vaccine after Alaskans in Phases 1a and 1b have adequate opportunity to get vaccinated (looking ahead weeks or months from now).

We encourage and look forward to hearing public comments.

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that Phase 1c include persons aged 65–74 years, persons aged 16–64 years with high-risk medical conditions, and other essential workers. Because Alaska has already included Alaskans 65 years of age and most essential workers in Phase 1b, AVAAC and DHSS are proposing that Phase 1c include persons aged 16-49 years of age with high-risk medical conditions as well as any additional essential workers.

How to view the AVAAC Public Comment Meetings:This meeting will be held via Zoom Webinar, Facebook Live via the DHSS Facebook page, and by telephone. • Access via Zoom: alaska.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_6auQiUk7TQ2Hf_XBQz2XQQ• Dial-in access will be available:US +1-253-215-8782 Webinar ID: 864 7890 1614• Access via Facebook will be available via the DHSS page: https://www.facebook.com/alaska.dhss/

How to provide public comments: The University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Human Development is accepting public comments on behalf of the Alaska Department of Health and Social and Services in the following ways:• Submit written comments: form.jotform.com/203526539420149

These comments will be given to the DHSS Vaccine Task Force and Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Advisory Committee and comments may be made public with personal identifiers removed. Participants are encouraged to remove personal identifiers to protect their privacy. Comments will not be read live during the session.• Sign up on the list to provide live comments: alaska.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_6auQiUk7TQ2Hf_XBQz2XQQ

Live comments will be limited to 1 min (60 seconds). A limited number of individuals will be able to comment during this meeting. Once you sign up, you will be provided a confirmation of your time slot via email or phone. Please note that we are asking that comments be focused on Phase 1c.

Travel: I’m vaccinated. Do I need to comply with health orders for travel?

Yes, you need to still comply with the requirements of Health Order 8, Intrastate Travel or Health Order 6, International and Interstate Travel. It is unknown whether vaccinated individuals might still be able to pass the virus on to others.

While the vaccines authorized by the FDA for COVID-19 are safe and highly effective, they have been tested only to find out whether they protect the person getting the vaccine from getting sick with COVID-19. We do not know yet how well they prevent the person from getting infected with the virus and passing it on, only how well they prevent the person from getting sick. We know that getting vaccine helps to protect you, but we do not know yet how much it helps to protect other people.

So, if you are traveling and you have gotten the vaccine, you are much less likely to get very sick with COVID-19. However, because you may still be able to catch the virus and give it to others, the requirements for quarantine and testing do not change. The vaccines do not affect your test results.

DHSS traveler information page: https://covid19.alaska.gov/travelers/

DHSS health guidance for Alaska travelers:
http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/travel.aspx

Maintain COVID-19 Protective Measures

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines is great news, however, it’s important to keep practicing COVID-conscious habits:

*** Wear a mask
*** Keep your social circle small; limit contact with people outside your household
*** Watch your space, stay 6 feet from others
*** Wash your hands
*** Keep you and your family safe, vaccinate when it’s your turn

The first rounds of the vaccine will be provided to people with the highest risk of exposure and serious illness. It will likely be many months before all Alaskans who want the vaccine will be able to get vaccinated. Until then, simple safety measures will help slow the spread of COVID-19 within our community.

January 6 News Release: Unified Command’s Weekly Meeting

UNIFIED COMMAND DISCUSSES ONLINE ENROLLMENT FOR VACCINATIONS

SITKA, January 6, 2020

Incident Commander, John Leach reported Sitka’s case count was decreasing and we are now in Moderate Alert. Leach thanked everyone in the community for following mitigation efforts and stated that our drop in Alert Level is an indication that mitigation efforts are working. He encouraged continued prevention measures and to sign up online through Harry Race or SEARHC to receive the vaccine.  Leach spoke with Southeast Alaskan communities and the cruise ship industry in their weekly teleconference call about the coming 2021 summer season.  Disney Cruise Line participated in this week’s teleconference and everyone is waiting and eager to see how the 2021 season starts.

Public Information Officers, Jessica Ieremia and Sara Peterson are keeping citizens informed on the two vaccination options in Sitka. Both options require an online registration process.

The State of Alaska dispenses vaccines through Harry Race Pharmacy. An appointment is received during the online registration process. Registration is now taking place for 65+. Register at https://outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/COVIDVaccinationTier3@whitesalaska.com/bookings/.

A vaccine can also be obtained through SEARHC. Everyone can sign up online now. After you have registered you will receive a phone call or email from SEARHC when your sequence is up. At this time, you will be able to make an appointment. Register online at https://covid19.searhc.org/.

Harry Race Pharmacist, Dirk White said they just received an allotment of Pfizer vaccinations for EMT, Sitka Fire Department, Sitka Police Department and the State Troopers. Currently, vaccinations for 65 and older can register for the Moderna vaccine clinics on January 13 and 20. The pharmacy is following the State run phase and tier system.

Operations Sections Chief, Craig Warren reminded Sitka that vaccinations were being handled by the State and SEARHC. All registration takes place online and questions need to be directed to Harry Race and SEARHC.

Maegan Bosak, SEARHC Liaison reported that a total of 42,634 COVID-19 tests have been performed. As of January 6, in Sitka, SEARHC has vaccinated 1100 people. The vaccine will remain limited in the following months and the community is encouraged to register online. You will receive a call or email when your sequence is up. Future dates for the COVID-19 vaccine clinics will be announced as more vaccine becomes available. It is recommended to continue to mitigate through social distancing, masking and proper hand washing.

SEARHC Incident Commander, Dr Bruhl discussed the changing guidelines for the definition of frontline essential workers and the appropriate sequencing for a limited resource. Using CDC guidelines SEARHC is allocating vaccine in a fair and equitable distribution process.

John Holst, Superintendent for Sitka School District sent out a parent email that stated all the schools will be open for in-person instruction starting on Monday, January 11. At least half of the school system’s staff has been inoculated for the first round of the vaccination.

Unified Command recommends citizens to enroll for a vaccination online with Harry Race Pharmacy at https://outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/COVIDVaccinationTier3@whitesalaska.com/bookings/ and with SEARHC at https://covid19.searhc.org/.

We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others and keeping your social circle small. In addition, 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 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  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 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 cityofsitka.org or covid19.searhc.org.

# # #

State of Alaska opens COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling for 65 years of age and older

January 6 – To schedule, visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322.

“Today at noon is when COVID-19 vaccine scheduling opens for Alaskans who are 65 years of age and older for appointments beginning Monday, Jan. 11, or later. Health care workers as well as long-term care facility residents and staff also remain eligible and can continue as schedule as well.

We do expect a high volume of interest to our website, covidvax.alaska.gov, and our contracted call center, 907-646-3322. At this call center, you can leave a message to get a call back. This call center can help walk people through the process of scheduling appointments but cannot provide medical advice; please call your health care provider for medical questions.

We apologize in advance if people experience difficulties today, but please have patience. Even if you are eligible to receive the vaccine, please know that it may take some time to secure an appointment. Please know that more appointments are added weekly, so check back often. You can sign up to be on a wait list. Please cancel your wait list slot if you do get an appointment through a different vaccine provider.

If you need assistance, other places to call for help include your local public health center, your emergency operations center or your own health care provider.

Lastly, for all Alaskans: If you know a senior who may have trouble making an appointment, please offer them help. We’re all in this together, and our goal as a state is to get vaccine out quickly and equitably across the state, with eligibility going first, while vaccine is limited, to those who are most at risk and vulnerable to severe illness and death.”

Here’s a flyer that describes the online scheduling process for the State of Alaska: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/SiteAssets/Pages/HumanCoV/COVIDvaccine_Tier3-65-OnePager.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3ZK5vvTTF4E0VcRNdGMePl6bYeb79K09dQBu6eAQdaW8S0EUfCMGBU8Kc

FAQs: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/SiteAssets/Pages/HumanCoV/COVIDvaccine_Alaskans65-FAQs.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2NoE1KHLg1VDhUhIlpEzvUHlVmrJQT2E30BTbISv6vJJ0lEw4krl5ZoAQ

For more information: covidvax.alaska.gov

Continue COVID-Conscious Habits

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines is great news, but it’s important to keep practicing COVID-conscious habits: Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay 6 feet away from others and limit your contact with people outside your household. The first rounds of the vaccine will be provided to people with the highest risk of exposure and serious illness. It will likely be many months before all Alaskans who want the vaccine will be able to get vaccinated. Until then, simple safety measures will help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities so we can keep businesses and schools open.