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)

Sitka Rotary Hears Of COVID’s Lesson

Special to the Sentinel

Neal Axton, Graduate Engagement and Government Information Librarian at Kansas University, spoke to Sitka Rotarians Tuesday afternoon about disaster prevention and response.

Axton, who also teaches a course on disaster law at KU, joined the group of Sitkans via Zoom for his presentation.

He explained that a disaster occurs when human vulnerability and a threat – such as a natural disaster or a human-made error – collide. 

To combat these threats, people have created a system to react to disasters, called All Hazards Preparedness.

Axton said that this is a system that works well in cases where there is infrastructure damage, but said the system is ineffective when a pandemic hits.

“Pandemics really break the ‘All Hazards Preparedness’ paradigm because typically, all your infrastructure is still there,” he said. “The people are gone.”

Axton also discussed how small events often compound to create emergencies.

To demonstrate, he referenced the 2011 tsunami that led to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

“What I’m interested in is the cascading effect,” he said.

In the case of Fukushima, this meant that the tsunami, the engineering failure at the nuclear power plant and the proximity of both events to a populated area aligned.

“All of these things have to line up,” Axton said. “Sometimes you start with something very small.”

He said that it’s when a cascade of events takes place that a disaster materializes.

Axton said that before disasters happen – and after they have subsided – there is often opportunity to take preventative measures. He said that because of this, the COVID-19 pandemic can be used as a learning experience.

“It’s during recovery and rebuilding that we have this opportunity to prevent (future disasters),” he said.

Axton said he supports providing better health care in the wake of this pandemic. He said, too, that he believes COVID-19 could be the precursor of an even greater global catastrophe.

“COVID is just a warning,” he said. “I think this is our opportunity to beef up our public health infrastructure.”

Bigger threats, Axton said, could include other diseases that affect the respiratory system. 

Since COVID-19 is a virus that has been shown to weaken the lungs, Axton said humanity could see the return of diseases such as tuberculosis. These diseases could be devastating if the population isn’t vaccinated, he said. 

“What if the COVID pandemic just primes us for a second pandemic to run through,” he asked. “What are the costs of letting COVID run through the population?”

He said that preparing for a greater disaster is difficult because it’s a “slow emergency.”

“It’s very easy to focus on the fast disasters only and not plan for these long-term emergencies,” Axton said. “We want a society that can bounce back from these disasters, from these pandemics.”


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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.



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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