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)

New Asymptomatic COVID Found Here

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

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

Sitka Unified Command issued a press release around noon on Memorial Day on the findings of the Alaska Native Medical Center laboratory on a test sample from a patient at Sitka’s Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center.

The COVID test that came back positive for the virus was part of the admitting protocol at the hospital, where the patient had gone for emergency care some time in the past week.

“Upon receiving the positive test result, the patient immediately isolated and continues to quarantine at home. The patient is currently asymptomatic,” the news release said.

Members of the city’s Unified Command said state authorities are investigating the possible source of the virus in Sitka, and will notify those who have been in contact with the patient. 

City Administrator John Leach said today the new positive case does not change Sitka’s approach to preventing and slowing the spread of the coronavirus, and following Alaska’s plan for “responsible reopening.”

“Cases are to be expected,” he said. “We’ll continue to watch the numbers; we’ll continue to watch the data and respond appropriately. We’re still serious about following precautions (e.g. masks, handwashing, social distancing). We’re still working on responsible reopening.”

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

Today’s update from DHSS listed two new cases on Monday, bringing the state total to 411. Sitka is listed as having 2 cases. The state announcement said the two cases in Alaska on Monday were in Anchorage and Sitka, both female. One is aged 20 to 29 and the other is aged 30-39, DHSS said.

The state also included statistics of “nonresident cases.”

“Two nonresident cases in Anchorage were identified in seafood industry workers,” DHSS said. “They are listed separately from the total Alaska case count since they are not residents of Alaska. This brings the total nonresident cases to 17, 12 of which are in the seafood industry. Public health nurses and the DHSS Section of Epidemiology are investigating all cases in conjunction with the seafood company and community partners.”

SEARHC issued a comment Monday by Dr. Elliot Bruhl, 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 in the statement. “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 received information from their health providers that people increasingly are not going in for testing when they are sick.

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

The Sitka health task force affirmed the remediation measures that have been recommended in recent weeks: “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.”

Leach said some decisions on preventing the spread of COVID are up to individuals and businesses.

“People have choices, businesses have choices,” he said. “As a business, you have every right to require masks, or allow individuals to make that choice. Businesses can refuse services for anyone who they believe is a hazard to public safety (for not wearing a mask). ... We’ll continue to watch the numbers and continue to watch the data and proceed responsibly.”

SEARHC said in news release that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms – such as fever, aches, cough, shortness of breath, and sometimes decrease in sense of taste and smell – and who are concerned they might have contracted the virus should call the COVID hotline at 966.8799 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Outside of clinic hours they can contact the SEARHC 24/7 Nurse Advice Line at 1 (800) 613-0560.

The health consortium also advises people to get a flu shot, which will not protect against COVID but will prevent illness that might add to the workload on the healthcare system at this time.

 

 

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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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