NEW BREW – Zach Anderson stands at the bar of the recently opened Harbor Mountain Brewing Company Tuesday afternoon. The brew pub, on the site of the former Baranof Island Brewery, is open Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Retesting Reverses Positive Test in Sitka

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

The Sitka Long-term Care resident who tested both positive and negative for the COVID-19 virus within the last week, has received three more tests, all negative, SEARHC reported today.

The patient, who has been in isolation at the Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center, was scheduled for one more rapid test Thursday, said Dr. Elliot Bruhl, SEARHC vice president and chief medical officer. 

“If that’s negative, we’ll send him home,” Bruhl said.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing said today that the Alaska Section of Epidemiology “will continue to evaluate the uncertainty of the test.”

The positive test was returned after SEARHC tested all 15 residents in the Long-Term Care facility, in line with its move to test Sitka’s most vulnerable populations. SEARHC operates Sitka Long-Term Care in the former Sitka Community Hospital building on Moller Drive. 

All staff and care providers at the facility were tested, and the state Public Health Nurse did “contact tracing” to test anyone in contact with the resident who tested positive.

After the positive test result was returned Saturday, the patient was isolated and transferred to Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center. Once there, he underwent a rapid test, as required of all inpatients at the hospital, and it came back negative.

 With one positive and one negative test result, the Alaska Public Nurse continued its investigation.

“The tests are not 100 percent,” Ewing said in an interview Monday. “The tests are very accurate and some of them can go up to 98 percent. But there’s always that chance, right? So nothing is 100 percent guaranteed, so you can run into a false negative or a false positive. ... We had two tests that were opposing each other, so that’s why Dr. Bruhl and I both say we can’t speculate. We have to treat a positive as a positive. That’s what we have to do.”

Test samples were taken and sent to Alaska Native Medical Center and the state Department of Health and Social Services lab in Anchorage.

Both results came back negative on Tuesday, with the second result conveyed to Bruhl Tuesday evening.

Today, a rapid test result has returned negative, and another will be taken 24 hours after today’s test, Bruhl said.

SEARHC learned a number of things following the positive test result, Bruhl said. 

“(The resident) had only contact with people in that facility – there have been no visitors for six weeks,” Bruhl said. “He hasn’t had any contact in the facility, and no one has left the facility.”

That policy is in line with the state mandate for no visitors in long-term care facilities, to protect vulnerable populations.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Bruhl said. “I’m thankful we’ve locked down the long-term care facility and instituted all the precautions we did.”

He noted the restrictions on visitors, requirements for staff to wear personal protection equipment (PPE), and record keeping on those who had contact with the patient were followed.

No other positive readings were found among those who were tested, including care providers.

“All of the things we’ve been doing have paid off from the standpoint of managing the case and preventing the spread,” Bruhl said. “If you look at it as a drill the staff did a great job both in terms of maintaining the medical integrity of the facility as well as a great job in terms of responding to the crisis of this particular issue. To me it reinforces the value of some of the other things we’re doing.”

He cited as examples universal masking, universal screenings, separating various clinics and care providers from each other, and limiting staff members’ ability to manage work clothes.

“It does make a difference; it does keep people safe, and it allows us to go forward,” he said. “We’ve upped our game in the last six weeks.”

Ewing agreed with Bruhl’s comments about the success of the response.

“For a drill, this was a great drill,” the public health nurse said. “It showed we have the things in place. We’re happy it turned out the way it turned out and to know we did things right. ... There wasn’t a whole lot of tracing past what had already been done.”

Asked where the community and response could have improved, Ewing said, “The only thing we could do better is make sure things are not posted on Facebook. We need to be very cautious as to keeping information carefully safe, and comply with HIPPA (Health Information Patient Privacy Act).”

The entire Sitka population can’t be tested to determine if the virus is here, Bruhl said. “It’s really just about testing supplies and being able to support something like that,” he said.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-5-20)

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 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

New cases as of Tuesday: 56

Total statewide – 3,449

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 19 (14 resident; 5 non-resident) *

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

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 137.

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

Dan and Betty Keck were married 50 years ago and friends are invited to help celebrate. ... They were married at the Church of Christ in Pateros, Wash., and in 1960 loaded up their station wagon, drove to Seattle, flew to Annette Island and on to Sitka. ... They owned The Cellar from 1976 to 1995. Dan was on the Assembly and served as mayor. ...

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

Sitka Purse Seiners Association has endorsed Larry Carr for governor, according to Al Perkins, chairman of the local organization. He said the organization of about 50 members backs Carr for his position on fishing.

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