Another Positive Test Puts Sitka Total at 78*

Category: News
Created on Friday, 30 October 2020 15:49
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THE LATEST - After press time today, officials posted four new positive COVID-19 cases on the dashboard for Sitka residents who were tested October 21-29. With nine active cases, the community has moved from "low" alert level to "moderate," with a 14-day rolling rate average of .64 cases per day . The positive test results returned today were for an asymptomatic male, age 0-9, tested October 21; an asymptomatic female, age 60-69, tested Oct. 22; a male, age 50-59, tested Oct. 26; a symptomatic male, age 20-29, tested Oct. 29. The dashboard attributes two cases to "travel," one to "secondary" and one to "community spread." Two of the patients are isolating in Sitka; the other two are isolating Bristol Bay and Hawaii.

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By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

The city’s dashboard added another positive test result for COVID-19 Thursday.

The case was an asymptomatic female resident, age 30-39, who was tested on October 27. Contact tracing is completed, and the classification for the case was “community transmission,” which means no source was identified.

Sitka currently has five active cases, and a 14-day rolling case rate of .36 cases per day. The number of cumulative cases is 59 residents and 19 nonresidents, and Sitka’s alert level is “low.”

The six most recent cases on the dashboard are for tests taken on October 16, 20, 21, 22, 27 and 28. 

At the weekly Unified Command meeting Wednesday, members pointed out the uptick in cases across the state as well as the new cases in Sitka. The meetings generally are every other week when the alert level is “low” but Incident Commander John Leach suggested that with the state figures being high the local meetings be changed to weekly.

“I think we’re going to have a lot more to talk about over the next few weeks,” he said at the outset of the meeting. “If this keeps rising there might be some new state mandates or things we need to address with schools.”

Leach cited a statewide public information officers meeting from last week, in which the state’s chief medical officer, Anne Zink, reminded the group that “‘the pandemic is driven by the actions we choose.’ ... I think that was a really strong statement.”  

At the end of the meeting, Leach said the community has so far done a good job to keep the case count low, and he expects this weekend will represent “some sense of normalcy” in the community, with trick-or-treating. 

He said the reason the downtown Halloween trick-or-treating event is being held as planned, is that the community and schools have done a good job in keeping the case count low, and “looking out for each other.” But he added that it’s important to remember the messages of continuing to take precautions.

 “When (the pandemic) first hit, we had to close businesses down pretty much everywhere,” he said. “We lost the tourism season because of it, our businesses are hurting. Having the kids back in school and having those businesses open at least helps somewhat. ... It’s critically important that we keep them open as much as possible to get some sort of income in their pockets. The only way we can do that is, to keep each other safe. I’d really like to see those stores open when Christmas shopping season gets here. So let’s continue to look out for each other.“

One of the city public relations officers, Jessica Ieremia, who is also library director, emphasized the importance of the free asymptomatic testing on weekends at SEARHC and at the airport to help mitigate the spread of COVID. This weekend’s asymptomatic testing is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Planning Section Chief Rob Janik emphasized the “simple measures” that need to continue to be taken to keep schools and businesses open, including social distancing, hygiene, wearing masks and “limiting the number of people who are sharing air – so minimize the number of people in closed spaces without good ventilation.”

“We’re doing a good job so let’s keep it up,” Janik said.

In other reports at the meeting, Grace Roller, from the state public health nurse office, discussed a lag in reporting the positive cases, perhaps due to the high increase in cases around the state. The public health nurse office is working with SEARHC to receive a heads-up on positive test results. Roller also discussed the 35 new students coming into Mt. Edgecumbe High School, who will quarantine when they arrive, and be tested.

“That is one thing that’s definitely on our radar,” she said.

Sitka School District superintendent John Holst discussed his planned letter to parents that includes a note about dozens of college students arriving home for Thanksgiving through the rest of the year. “If you have kids coming in, abide by the old rules, try to get them to stay away from each other for a (week or two) because ... we could have a real spike occurring.”

In SEARHC’s update, Marketing and Public Relations director Maegan Bosak noted 29,903 tests taken in Sitka, and the success of the flu shot clinic on October 9, drawing more than 900 patients. 

* A correction was made in this online headline. The headline printed in today's Sentinel had a typo on the number of cumulative cases.