EXPECT DELAYS – Lines of traffic move slowly down Sawmill Creek Road today as a repaving project progresses near the Indian River bridge. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

All Sitkans to Get Offer of Free Tests

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

Starting Saturday, testing for the COVID-19 virus will be available to everyone in Sitka, regardless of whether they have symptoms, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium announced Monday.

Testing by “self-swab nasal collection” will be available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the drive-up testing center next to Mountainside Family Clinic, 209 Moller Avenue, the health consortium said. Walk-ups or bike-ups are welcome, SEARHC marketing and communications director Maegan Bosak said.

There is no charge for the testing, which is being funded through a grant from the US. Indian Health Service, SEARHC said.

“We have been wanting to provide asymptomatic testing for quite some time and finally have the resources to do so,” Bosak said. “We’re excited for all of the communities.”

The hours will be the same for the clinics in Wrangell and Juneau, with other programs at SEARHC communities across Southeast starting later this month, SEARHC said. In Juneau the free testing of asymptomatic individuals will be limited to tribal beneficiaries, the news release said.

Dr. Elliot Bruhl, SEARHC senior vice president and chief medical officer, said in a news release, said the consortium is pleased to be offering the service throughout the region.

“Quickly identifying and responding to positive cases in our communities is the most effective way to combat the pandemic,” he said in the announcement. “Asymptomatic testing will be a reality in the coming weeks and paint a clear picture of how COVID has penetrated our region.”

Testing at Sitka’s drive-up facility Monday through Friday will be reserved for symptomatic testing and referral- based testing, as required for work or medical procedures, for example, Bosak said.

Commenting on the benefits of increasing testing, state Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing said she is pleased to see “another additional layer of testing” available.

“Public Health receives several calls asking about testing and how to go about getting tested if one doesn’t have symptoms,” she said in an emailed comment to the Sentinel. “We have been waiting for asymptomatic testing for the general population and happy SEARHC is willing and able to provide this service. We have seen success in finding positive passengers with testing of asymptomatic people at the airport, and when they follow the quarantine mandate and go directly into quarantine until they receive their test results, what a difference this has made in the reduction of spreading COVID-19 into our community.”

But Ewing added that testing on its own won’t prevent or control COVID, and reminded the public to continue following guidelines.

“Without social distancing, wearing of masks and keeping our social bubble very SMALL, all the testing in the world won’t be enough,” she wrote.

Ewing, who spends the majority of her time contact tracing to determine the source of every positive coronavirus case, acknowledged that there’s a certain weariness setting in among the public. But letting up is not an option if Alaska wants to prevent the spread of the virus, she said.

“We have to dig deep, find additional ways to social distance and yet keep our social selves not feeling deprived,” she said. “Get creative, enjoy the summer, and do it in a way that shows our BETTER human side. SEARHC and Public Health are doing our part, and with everyone doing their part we will get there.”

Bosak said the testing type for the expanded testing program will be self-swab nasal collection, and staff will be available at the testing sites to instruct and answer questions.

More information on SEARHC’s pandemic response, including testing guidelines, is available at:

 

covid19.searhc.org or contact the COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799.

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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.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

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.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

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.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-7-20)

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 11:20 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 53

Total statewide – 3,536

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (14 resident; 6 non-resident) *

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

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 141.

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

High prices for chum salmon, low pink returns, and record numbers of fish in Deep Inlet have turned the Sitka fishing grounds into Route 66 this summer. “Overall it’s been a fantastic season so far,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, operations manager for the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will head a gathering of Orthodox prelates from North American and abroad in ceremonies canonizing the first American Orthodox saints, Father Herman of Alaska. A group of Sitkans will fly to Kodiak for the event.

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