EXPECT DELAYS – Lines of traffic move slowly down Sawmill Creek Road today as a repaving project progresses near the Indian River bridge. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Anchorage Short of Help On Virus Contact Tracing

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A rise in COVID-19 cases is taxing Anchorage’s ability to investigate cases, according to health officials. 

The city and state are working to expand contact tracing abilities as local cases increase with people interacting more, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Tracking contacts of people who have tested positive is an important tool in efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Anchorage Health Department Director Natasha Pineda said the city hopes temporarily to hire people to help with contact tracing and in the next month or two hire more public health nurses while working with the state’s new contact tracing system to expand capacity.

She said cases are emerging with more contacts. Earlier in the pandemic, people may have interacted with three to five people, but some now report dozens of contacts, she said.

“In the past week, we’ve had a lot of cases that are associated with locations where there’s well over 100 people that they may have interacted with and we can’t trace or contact any of them,” Pineda said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

When people go dancing or socialize indoors among large groups and do not maintain distance or wear masks as they go about their activities, “that’s going to cause community spread that’s really hard to manage,” Pineda said.

The state is implementing a contact investigation and tracking database called CommCare that Pineda said could help with Anchorage’s capacity issues.

Tari O’Connor, deputy director of the state Division of Public Health, said it’s taking longer than expected to implement the new system. One thing that’s taken time is transferring case information to the platform, along with hiring and training contact tracers and working with other agencies, she said. 

Contact tracers coordinate to provide help to parts of the state where help is needed, she said. “Because we do share resources between regions, we are also kind of having capacity issues statewide in terms of contact tracing,” she said.

The state and city have reduced how often they are following up with contacts, O’Connor and Pineda said.

Dr. Bruce Chandler, medical officer for municipal disease prevention and control in Anchorage, said some people want daily calls and others don’t. Anchorage has begun giving nurses more discretion in how frequently they call and when they might instead provide information for contacting the health department.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.

 

August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-7-20)

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 11:20 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 53

Total statewide – 3,536

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (14 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 141.

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

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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20 YEARS AGO
August 2000

High prices for chum salmon, low pink returns, and record numbers of fish in Deep Inlet have turned the Sitka fishing grounds into Route 66 this summer. “Overall it’s been a fantastic season so far,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, operations manager for the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will head a gathering of Orthodox prelates from North American and abroad in ceremonies canonizing the first American Orthodox saints, Father Herman of Alaska. A group of Sitkans will fly to Kodiak for the event.

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