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)

COVID-19 Positive Case in Sitka

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

 Public health officials today announced a positive test for COVID-19 in Sitka.

Sitka Unified Command issued a press release today to update the public, after the Alaska Native Medical Center laboratory notified SEARHC about the positive test result, said SEARHC communications director Maegan Bosak.

Today’s Unified Command news release came from SEARHC, the city and the emergency response team.

“The confirmed patient received COVID-19 testing as part of the admitting protocol at Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center,” said Unified Command, of the patient who was admitted within the last week for emergency care. “Upon receiving the positive test result, the patient immediately isolated and continues to quarantine at home. The patient is currently asymptomatic.”

The unified command said the state is investigating the source of the virus in Sitka, and state public health officials will notify and isolate additional persons as appropriate.

Sitka had its first confirmed case April 25, exactly a month ago. The asymptomatic person – a resident of the Sitka Long-term Care – had one positive test, and other tests were negative.

The state Department of Health and Social Services’ report today was for cases through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, so the latest Sitka case is not included. It will be included in the May 26 report, said Sitka’s Public Information Officer Sara Peterson.

The Alaska case count remained at 409.

SEARHC also issued a press release today with the same information, with a comment from Dr. Elliot Bruhl, SEARHC vice president and chief medical officer.

“As a community, Sitka has excelled in taking early precautions to keep the case count low allowing time to prepare staff and facilities for positive COVID-19 cases,” Bruhl said. “We continue to urge Sitkans to practice good hygiene and social distance to protect our vulnerable friends and neighbors.”

Peterson said today that continued adherence to Centers for Disease Control recommendations and state mandates is necessary.

“Now is not the time to let down our guard,” she said. “I strongly encourage Sitkans to follow all of the measures we’ve learned about over the past few months, to prevent and control the spread of COVID: wearing a face covering, washing your hands, social distancing and cleaning surfaces. Staying home if you are sick. If you think you have the virus, seek testing.”

Peterson said she has been participating in teleconferences with other public information officers, who have noticed a trend of people not going in for testing when sick.

“It’s unfortunate people feel there’s a stigma to getting tested,” she said. “It’s important for citizens to remember you can be asymptomatic, interacting with people and spreading the virus unknowingly.”

The Unified Command news release had similar reminders to “adhere to all state mandates and to remain diligent and practice the health measures we’ve all learned in recent weeks and months: wash your hands often, avoid close contact with others and keep your social circle small, stay home if you feel ill, wear a face covering when around others, and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces on a regular basis.”

SEARHC said in its news release that the health consortium’s Incident Command System has worked diligently to prepare staff and facilities throughout the region for COVID-19 patients.

“All visitor access has been restricted, screening is required at all facilities for both patients and staff, equipment has been inventoried and stocked, the hospital has configured multiple areas, specifically for COVID-19 patients, and all SEARHC staff have received COVID19 testing,” the news release said. “ICS has an agreement for usage of the three separate Mt. Edgecumbe High School dormitories for surge planning. Each would serve a dedicated use - hospital overflow, mild COVID-19 cases, and persons under investigation.”

SEARHC said the utilization of MEHS would allow patients from Southeast communities, particularly smaller communities without resources, to be sent to Sitka for ongoing care by SEARHC staff associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu - fever, aching, cough, shortness of breath, and sometimes decreased sense of taste and smell. If you are concerned you might have contracted the coronavirus contact the COVID hotline at 966.8799 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Outside of normal clinic hours, patients can contact the SEARHC 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 1.800.613.0560 to be triaged by a registered nurse.

Additional information on COVID-19 is available through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services at https://covid19.alaska.gov/ and SEARHC at www.covid19.searhc.org.

SEARHC said if you are not sick, please continue to take precautionary measures to stay healthy:

- Get your flu shot. The flu shot will not prevent COVID-19 but will help prevent you from getting sick and reduce the workload on the healthcare system.

- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after your blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, put distance between yourself and other people outside of your home, do not gather in groups and minimize your actions with others, stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings, and keep your social circle small.

- Stay home if you feel ill, and always cover coughs and sneezes.

- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily (e.g. phones, tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles).

- Wear a face covering, in particular in public settings. For more information on cloth face coverings visit http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/coveryourface.aspx

Residents are encouraged to prepare for any local emergency by ensuring each family member has a 14- day emergency supply kit, including any necessary medications.

 

 

 

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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.

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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

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

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 sitkasentinel.com. 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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