ALL IN THE SAME TACO BOAT – Sitkans, many wearing face masks, line up this afternoon at the Sitka Elks Lodge food booth. With the pandemic, most of this year’s Sitka Independence Day events have been modified, but not entirely canceled. The American Legion and Sizzling Chow Cuisine also will have outdoor food booths. While there’s no downtown parade, there is a parade of classic cars that will tour Sitka streets beginning at 1 p.m. at Whale Park. A sing-along and military salute will take place on Totem Square 7 p.m. Friday and a fireworks display will take place 11:30 Friday night over Sitka Channel, with spectators asked to follow social distancing recommendations. The Rotary Club is holding its annual Duck Race on the fourth. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

City Administrator Declares Emergency

BULLETIN: City Administrator John Leach today declared a local disaster emergency in effect for seven days.


Sentinel Staff Writer

An emergency Assembly meeting has been called for 6 p.m. Monday, for members to consider a resolution that allows Leach to extend the disaster declaration until Nov. 24, or until the state or federal government says it is no longer an emergency, “whichever comes first,” Leach said today.

There is one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Alaska at this time, and no confirmed cases in Sitka. 

Monday’s meeting at Harrigan Centennial Hall is open to the public, but City Clerk Sara Peterson said today, “People are encouraged to attend by watching it.” That can be done on the city’s webpage, and the Sentinel’s and KCAW-FM’s Facebook pages.

At 3:30 p.m. today, Leach read the following disaster declaration on the Code Red line, that went out to 5,800 phones:

“Good afternoon. This is John Leach, your Municipal Administrator.

“Today, I am declaring a local disaster emergency in accordance with AS 26.23.140 to help prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, to open emergency funding, and formally request State and Federal support.  As of this reading, there are still no known cases of the COVID-19 virus in Sitka.

“I am urging citizens who are returning from travel, by either plane or boat, to take individual steps to reduce any potential transmission of any virus.  Such actions include washing your hands, coughing/sneezing into your elbow, practicing good social distancing, and not touching your face.  I also urge self-reporting of potential contact to the virus to local health officials.  When returning from travel, please do your best to limit your contact with community members who are in the identified high-risk groups (persons over 65 and persons with chronic disease) and consider a self-quarantine.

“As I said last Friday, I’m asking that travel outside of Sitka be limited to essential travel only.  Many local school clubs and sports teams have already cancelled their travel.

“Businesses are encouraged to allow remote work for employees who have that capability, and I’m asking that citizens coordinate with their employers to pursue those opportunities.  I’m also asking our local businesses to consider “phasing” services by limiting the amount of personnel in their business at one time to avoid creating a large gathering.

“City offices and buildings (including Harrigan Hall and the Library) will be closed except for those purposes that are deemed essential to the health, safety, and security of the citizens of Sitka (i.e. power, water, sewer, garbage, emergency services, and police).  Any employee that is not directly supporting the essential functions I just mentioned will either work remotely, be placed in a recall status, or placed on administrative leave.  I would ask that the School District consider the same administrative leave option to ensure money continues moving through the local economy.

“We understand that the schools are a source of childcare for some families, and we also understand that school lunches are a necessity for some students.  SSD has been working with their bus drivers to explore opportunities to deliver lunches to those children during the school closure period, however long that extends.  Please contact SSD for more information.

“Knowing that many families will need to stay home to provide childcare, that businesses may choose to close temporarily, or some employees will have to stay home due to sickness, I’ll be working with the Assembly to develop a plan to address concerns with payments due to the City such as utility payments.  Options include placing a temporary moratorium on CBS utility bills.  The bills would still require future payment, but we could potentially waive penalties and disconnects on a case-by-case basis. 

“The biggest message to take away is that we need to work together as a community to slow the spread of the virus, reduce the number of cases, and not overwhelm our healthcare system.

“Please go to or call 2-1-1 for more information on the State’s response to COVID-19 and for other helpful resources.

“With the hearts of Sitkans and resiliency of Alaskans, we are poised to make Sitka the standard by which all other cities are measured!

“Thank you.”

The Assembly at its emergency meeting on Monday will consider the following resolution:

WHEREAS, COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that can result in serious illness or death and is caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus (“virus”), a new strain of the corona virus that has not been previously identified in humans and is easily transmittable person to person; and, 

WHEREAS, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) declared the virus a pandemic; Alaska Governor Dunleavy issued a declaration of public health disaster emergency in response to the anticipated outbreak of COVID-19 in Alaska; and on March 13, 2020, President Donald J. Trump declared a national emergency in response to the virus pandemic; and 

WHEREAS, a positive case of COVID-19 has been identified within the State of Alaska; and 

WHEREAS, on March 13, 2020, Governor Dunleavy closed all schools in Alaska for two weeks; and multiple other facilities and services in Sitka were suspended due to precautionary methods for protecting community from the COVID-19 virus; and

WHEREAS, on March 13, 2020, the Prime Minister of Canada closed all cruise ship ports in Canada until July 2020, which will dramatically impact the cruise ship calls into Sitka with a substantial effect to the Sitka economy; and 

WHEREAS, a declaration of disaster emergency will alert the public to the seriousness of the risk, and provide direction to sources of information and other available public health resources, all while the City and Borough works in cooperation with other local and state agencies through the Sitka Emergency Operations Center to implement actions and responses to address the probable COVID-19 outbreak. 

NOW THEREFORE, in accordance with the recommendations of the Sitka Emergency Operations Center, I now declare a disaster emergency in the City and Borough of Sitka based on the risk to the public posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the substantial economic impacts to the City and Borough of Sitka. As provided by AS 26.23 .140, the intent of this declaration is to activate the response and recovery aspects of any and all applicable local or interjurisdictional disaster or emergency plans, and to authorize the furnishing of aid and assistance under those plans. Further, I hereby request that the Assembly continue this declaration until November 24, 2020, or until the virus is no longer declared a federal or state emergency, whichever occurs first. Signed this 15th day of March, 2020.”

The Department of Health and Social Services today issued a health advisory:

DHSS strongly advises that all Alaskans read and comply with the following guidance for returning travelers:

Higher Risk: For travelers returning within 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread, ongoing community spread such as Europe, China and other countries (i.e., a CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice Area) you should:

– Stay home and avoid contact with other household members.

– Contact your employer and do not go to work or school for this 14-day period after you return.

– There is a CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice Area for China, Iran, South Korea, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City.

Medium Risk: For travelers returning within 14 days from outside of Alaska (including the rest of the United States) you should:

– Discuss your work situation with your employer before returning to work.

– Minimize contact with people as much as possible, self-monitor and practice social distancing.

– This may mean not going to work or school if you cannot safely be distanced from others – especially if you traveled in a location where community transmission is occurring.

Health Guidance for Returning Travelers in the Higher and Medium Risk Groups

– Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing.

– Do not take mass transportation during the time you are practicing social distancing.

– Avoid crowded places (such as shopping centers and movie theaters) and limit your activities in public.

– Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).

– If you get sick with fever (>100.3°F), cough, or shortness of breath, please call your health care provider.

– If you seek medical care for other reasons, such as dialysis, call ahead to your doctor and tell them about your recent travel.

– All Alaskans should follow previous guidance including regular hand washing, cleaning surfaces and avoiding large gatherings (March 13 COVID-19 Health Alert: Recommendations for Keeping Communities Safe).

The governor closed the schools through March 30, but boarding schools have separate plans.





Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-2-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:15 a.m. Wednesday.

New cases as of Monday: 39

Total statewide – 1,017

Total (cumulative) deaths – 14

Active cases in Sitka – 8 (6 resident; 2 non-resident)

Recovered cases in Sitka – 10 (7 resident; 3 non-resident)

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 68.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.



Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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