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)

City Gets 10,000 Face Masks to Give Out

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

A shipment of 10,000 cloth face coverings, with a Big Dipper design on the front, arrived in Sitka Thursday for distribution by the city and the school district.

 

Sara Peterson models one of the 10,000 new big dipper cloth masks as Fire Chief Dave Miller looks on this morning. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

City public information officer Sara Peterson said 8,000 of the masks are designated for community use, and 2,000 will be given to the school district. She said the city hasn’t yet decided how the masks will be made available to the public.

Fire Chief Dave Miller commented: “We’re excited they arrived, and they arrived fast from the state, and we’ll find a way to distribute them.”

City Administrator John Leach said at the weekly Unified Command meeting Wednesday that the city had sent a request for 30,000 masks, and that more may be ordered as needed.

The city now requires face masks or face coverings in city buildings if individuals can’t maintain a distance of at least six feet. The state implemented a similar policy a week ago for all state buildings.

Leach also talked about Gov. Dunleavy’s announcement on Tuesday that starting August 11 all nonresidents coming to Alaska must arrive with proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before departing for Alaska.

In Sitka city officials followed up with the announcement to clarify that “On August 11, airport testing will cease for non-residents.” After that date testing at the airport will be available only to Alaska residents, the Unified Command press release said.

Updates were also provided at Wednesday’s meeting from others on the Incident Command team (e.g. operations, planning, finance, public information) as well as liaisons, including from the schools, SEARHC and public health.

Sitka School Superintendent John Holst said today that the district employees starting work on Monday – including principals and some administrative staff – are being tested today, with results expected within 24 to 48 hours. In two weeks, testing will begin for teachers and the rest of the staff.

“SEARHC will be testing (school employees) every two weeks, after that,” Holst said.

Holst said the Zoom listening sessions on the Smart Start committee’s plan for school reopening have been going well, with 50 parents attending Wednesday’s session and 40 at the meeting for staff members on Thursday. A handful also attended in person at Harrigan Centennial Hall. He said both were mostly Q and A sessions about the reopening plans.

“There really weren’t any show stoppers – comments that would prevent us from reopening,” he said.

 “Many different levels of anxiety” about returning to school, both from staff and student angles, remain, Holst said.

“There will be some parents who request remote learning only, for a variety of potential reasons,” he said. “We will also have staff that request to work remotely because of medical issues including compromised immune systems and other possible medical reasons. We are hopeful the number of students who choose remote learning will match up with the number of staff requesting to be teaching remotely.”

The reopening plan is available at: https://www.sitkaschools.org/

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing reported at the Wednesday meeting that with the addition of UAA and National Guard personnel, the state has doubled the number of contact tracers in Alaska since February.

However, she said, “the rise in cases exceeds our rise in workforce.”

The city lists the cumulative number of Sitka residents testing positive is 23, and a total so far of 12 nonresidents testing positive.

There has been one hospitalization and 32 total cases recovered, Peterson said today.

Ewing said the state is still seeing most cases in the 20-29 age range. The distribution is as follows:

– under 10 is 4.61%

– 10 to 19 is 9.65%

– 20 to 29 is 24.67%

– 30 to 39 is 19.09%

– 40 to 49 is 13.66%

– 50 to 59 is 12.94%

– 64 to 69 is 9.62%

– 70 to 79 is 4.29%

– 80 and above is 1.47%

“Just to note: protect yourself and others, tighten social circles, practice good hygiene, social distances, wear a mask, get tested,” Ewing said.

The unified command group also discussed some issues related to testing including concerns about delays in results and isolation.

In a call with reporters on Thursday, the Anchorage Daily News said state health officials urged people who show symptoms and are waiting for a test result to isolate at home. And those who test positive for the illness should isolate until they’re better and have been cleared by public health workers.

If a person spends 15 minutes or more with someone else who ends up testing positive — including the two days before someone shows symptoms or tests positive — they must quarantine for two weeks, and a testing strategy can’t shorten that, Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said during the call.

“We really need people to minimize the risk of transmission during that time,” Zink said.

 

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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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