Emergency Leaders Say: Shelter in Place

Category: Local News
Created on Monday, 23 March 2020 15:14

Sentinel Staff Writer
    Sitka city and medical leaders on Sunday advised “sheltering in place,” in line with actions by other Alaska communities to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19.
    The city issued a “Joint Recommendation under State of Emergency to Shelter in Place” at 1:22 p.m. Sunday afternoon with a list of specific recommendations. It was signed by City Administrator John Leach, SEARHC chief medical officer Elliot Bruhl, and Fire Chief Dave Miller, emergency manager.
    City Clerk Sara Peterson said the Assembly will take up another pandemic-related resolution at its Tuesday night meeting, with similar recommendations to those Leach issued Sunday afternoon.
    The city announcement on Sunday came out before the state reported 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, including the first confirmed case in Juneau.
    Leach and the other leaders issued the “shelter in place” announcement even though no confirmed cases have been reported in Sitka.
    “I’m doing this and recommending this out of an overabundance of caution,” Leach told the Sentinel this morning. “I would rather apologize for doing too much than apologize later for not doing enough.”
    The Emergency Unified Command recommendation was sent to the media and posted on the city’s website. The decision came after proclamations for “sheltering in place” were issued by mayors in the City of Ketchikan, the Borough of Ketchikan and Saxman, said City Clerk Sara Peterson.
    The state generally updates the statistics of confirmed cases daily, around 12:30 p.m., but Sunday’s update came out after 7 p.m. The confirmed cases Sunday were in Anchorage (7), the Mat-Su Borough (2) and Juneau (1). Ketchikan has 6 confirmed cases. The Department of Health and Social Services said on its website today it would be updating the data at 5 p.m. daily from now on.
    Sunday’s announcement said: “The Sitka Emergency Unified Command, including SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, the City and Borough of Sitka, and Sitka Fire Department, have been working tirelessly to prepare for COVID-19 response in Sitka. The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a public health emergency that threatens to overwhelm the health system and economy of our community, endangering the lives and wellbeing of our citizens.”
    The announcement noted Gov. Dunleavy’s health mandates, such as closing schools, services and businesses to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
    “It is now imperative that the citizens of Sitka follow strict guidance to hunker down, shelter in place, and stay home, in order to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Sunday’s announcement said.
    “Due to the exponential spread of the COVID-19 virus in places near Sitka, and per the recommendations of the Sitka Emergency Operations Center, we highly recommend a “Shelter in Place” protocol, strongly urging all citizens in Sitka to:
    - Hunker down and shelter in place in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
    - Food supply chains are fully functioning, and grocery stores will remain open. Residents who are healthy and do not believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 may shop at grocery stores but are asked to do so without lingering. If you go out, practice health directives such as handwashing and social distancing, by staying six feet away from others.
    - Stay home and work from home as much as possible.
    - To the extent possible, non-essential businesses are urged to close for a period of 14 days. Leach said this morning he was still working on definitions for “non-essential businesses.”
    - Conduct business via electronic means as much as possible.
    - If you are sick or suspect that you may be infected with the COVID-19 virus, you should take steps to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as a cough or difficulty breathing, contact SEARHC COVID Hotline at 907.966.8799 (8 a.m.-5 p.m.). After hours, call the Nurse Advice Line at 1.800.613.0560.
     - Follow all health mandates issued by Gov. Dunleavy, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and the Center for Disease Control. All mandates and more information can be accessed at coronavirus.alaska.gov.
     - If you are picking up or dropping off passengers at the airport, consider curbside pickup and drop-off of passengers to limit the airport terminal occupancy to travelers only.
    If you have recently traveled into Sitka, the announcement said, you MUST quarantine in accordance with CDC and DHSS mandates (https://gov.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/03172020-SOA-COVID-19-Health-Mandate-004.pdf.
    “Thank you for your cooperation as our community works together to stop any spread of the COVID-19 virus.” The announcement was signed by Leach, Bruhl and Miller.
    At his daily meeting with emergency responders this morning, Leach said the team discussed the upcoming Assembly resolution, coordinating volunteer efforts (in addition to efforts under way by the Sitka Conservation Society), options for voluntary screenings at the airport, and definitions of essential and nonessential businesses.