PASSING THROUGH – Orca whales swim near the Indian River estuary Thursday night. A pod of more than a half-dozen adult and juvenile orcas spent the late afternoon in Sitka Sound near shore as people along Sawmill Creek Road photographed and video recorded them. NOAA Fisheries recommends staying at least 100 yards away while viewing whales from boats. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Chamber Gets Advice on Reopening Practices

Sentinel Staff Writer

Keeping stores, shoppers, and workers safe from a possible COVID-19 outbreak while reopening dominated discussion led by the Sitka Health Summit Coalition at the teleconferenced Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday.

Public health nurse Denise Ewing advised businesses to continue with established social distancing practices.

“Stay six feet away from non-family members, wash your hands, wipe down touched surfaces, wear face coverings in public settings in close contact with others, and stay home when you’re sick, and be mindful and respectful of those who are more vulnerable,” Ewing told the online Chamber audience, echoing advice from the state government.

She said each added layer of precaution increases overall safety for all involved.

“Everything is a tool, and if you liken it to an onion, it’s just one more layer. So if you wear gloves, layers, if you sanitize it’s a layer, if you wear a mask, another layer. And so once those layers are set up, the safer we are,” she said.

Amber Rivera, left, and Ashia Lane stand at the counter of Old Harbor Books this afternoon. At Wednesday’s Chamber luncheon, members of the Sitka Health Summit Coalition discussed strategies for safely reopening Sitka businesses. Forty-nine people attended the Zoom presentation, which was recorded for those who were unable to attend. The Sitka Health Summit Coalition, in partnership with the Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the State of Alaska Division of Public Health Nursing, with financial support from Sitka Legacy Foundation, launched the Safe Stores, Shoppers and Workers Initiative to support Sitka businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The previous day Gov. Dunleavy announced that more “reopening” measures, lifting mandates on non-essential businesses, would take effect Friday, May 22. Even so, speakers at the Chamber event advised people to continue to maintain social distancing, wear face masks and take other precautions against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Ewing urged Sitkans to keep their masks clean, as dirt or hand oils reduce mask effectiveness.

Chandler O’Connell of the Sitka Conservation Society and Sitka Health Summit spoke on the results of a survey aimed at businesses and their virus-related concerns.

She said that of the 28 local businesses and organizations that replied to the survey, just over a third were open in a limited capacity, with another third closed but ready to reopen soon. O’Connell added that five of the responding organizations were closed and unsure when they will be able to reopen. O’Connell noted that the optional survey was conducted from May 5 to 12, and since then some state-level virus restrictions have been eased.

The survey also asked businesses what would make them feel more comfortable reopening. Items such as hand sanitizer and no-contact thermometers topped the list, O’Connell said.

“We chose materials based on what businesses themselves told us that they needed and would like to receive from an initiative like this,” she said.

Using information gleaned from the survey, she said the Sitka Health Summit is using grant money from the Sitka Legacy Foundation to purchase items for businesses to use. The requested items should begin to arrive next week, depending on availability. Businesses that accept this aid will not owe anything in return – O’Connell described the grant as “no strings attached.”

In addition, O’Connell said, more than half of surveyed businesses wanted some sort of signs to indicate whether wearing a mask is or is not required in that business. Signs are now in the process of being made and distributed, she said.

“Our goals in this project are to support local business and help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “We’re grateful to be able to provide some support, but we hope that this support will act as a buffer and allow people to fill gaps. We don’t expect to be able on an ongoing basis to fulfill business procurements needs. But we understand that supply chains are in flux… so our goal is to relieve a little pressure and provide some buffer to help folks adapt.”


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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-31-20)

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 12:50 p.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 108

Total statewide – 2,990

Total (cumulative) deaths – 23

Active cases in Sitka – 15 (10 resident; 5 non-resident) *

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

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 133.

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. 



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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July 2000

Clinton Buckmaster shot and wounded a large brown bear Tuesday night when it charged him near his Thimbleberry Bay home in the 2100 block of Sawmill Creek Road. As of press time, the bear was still at large.

July 1970

The city council agreed at a special meeting Thursday to consider the request of Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 1 for redevelopment planning funds for the Indian Village. Cost has been estimated at $12,000.