HONORED – Crew members pose with Rear Adm. Nathan A. Moore, commander, Coast Guard 17th District, after being presented Air Medals at Air Station Sitka, May 7. The aircrew received medals in recognition of the heroic actions taken to save the life of a fisherman adrift at sea Nov. 1, 2020. The Air Medal is awarded to individuals serving with the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement in aerial flight. Pictured are, from left, Brian McLaughlin, Justin Neal, Jon Orthman, Grant Roberts, Jimmy Schwader and Moore (Photo provided by U.S. Coast Guard)

Sitka Mask Makers Rising to Challenge

Sentinel Staff Writer

City, health care and emergency response leaders in Sitka issued a “call to action” today, asking residents to sew face masks to donate to SEARHC, to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19.

A number of Sitkans may have anticipated this request – for more than a week they have been hard at work, with dozens of seamstresses contributing hundreds of masks for use here and around Southeast, under the organization Southeast Alaska Mask Makers. They’re available to the public.

The city virus response team issued a news release:

“While SEARHC leadership has stated that their personal protective equipment quantities are currently sufficient across the region, the Sitka (Emergency Operations Center) is hoping crafters currently sheltered-in-place would welcome the opportunity to help.”

The city’s website calls the home-sewn masks “part of the coronavirus response.”

“While homemade masks are not a viable replacement option for N95 masks, we at SEARHC do see the benefit of supplementing our supply of masks that we use for patients,” said SEARHC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl. “There are opportunities to use these homemade masks for patients, potentially preserving some of our supply.” 

Sarah Jordan holds up one of the colorful fabric face masks she is making at home today. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)


The wearing of homemade masks by the general public is a matter of controversy. (See related Washington Post story.)

SEARHC has put up links to a number of patterns for sewing facemasks:





Those wishing to donate their homemade masks to SEARHC can drop them off at the Harrigan Centennial Hall entrance, the press release on the city website says. 

The homemade masks do not meet the standards set by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for N95 masks, which are in short supply at localized COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S.

“Homemade masks ... are not effective in filtering small particles typically transmitted through coughs or sneezes, including COVID-19,” the city press release says. “When worn, these homemade masks could discourage touching of the face and protect from contact with liquids. Homemade cloth masks could be properly laundered for reuse.”

A group of volunteers called the Southeast Alaska Mask Makers have been making face masks at their homes in Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell, Sitka and outlying areas. For others interested in sewing them, the group offers a kit for making the masks.

“These are not N95s,” clarified Mercedes Phillips, a Sitka member of the mask making group.

The group is using only one or two patterns, in order to have some uniformity, and to let people know what they’re getting.

Generally the pattern is for a three-fold face mask, with elastic to be attached to the ears, and an optional wire piece for a better fit around the nose.

“There’s such a shortage of PPE materials,” Phillips said. “We want to get ahead of the demand. We feel we will get to the point where masks won’t be available even for medical professionals. We don’t want to get to the point where we are scrambling to catch up.”

Groups and individuals can request masks on the group’s Facebook pages. There are also instructions, like washing them after every use. Local organizers are following precautions and limit contact with the volunteer seamstresses.  

Like many others, Phillips said she signed up as a volunteer after following the news of scarce resources around the U.S., and wanted to make a difference.

JoAnn Fabrics in Juneau sent over fabric and thread, which are included in the kits in town. Also in the kits are instructions on precautions, and other materials.

Sarah Jordan, president of Ocean Wave Quilters, has joined the effort, adding her own fabric from past projects. Other volunteers from Ocean Wave are also involved, along with independent seamstresses.

“I saw some on Pintrest but for a while I didn’t know it was going on here,” she said. Since signing on as a volunteer, she has been talking to a lot who have been keeping busy with mask making, either for other Southeast communities or Sitka. She noted resources are available online, to help teach people how to make them.

The pattern she is using is the three-pleat mask, with two layers of cotton fabric on the outside, and a layer of nonwoven pellon interfacing in the middle.

Another option is for ties instead of elastic around the ears, but Jordan said this requires more sewing skills than the ones with elastic.

Jordan, always an active volunteer in the community, said she was more than willing to help, for a few reasons. 

“I have so much fabric that I’m very happy to use some of it up,” Jordan said, noting the basketball, fish, dogs and turtle fabrics she’s already used.

Phillips said those with questions may call her at 907-209-0114, or fellow coordinator Sherri Blankenship at 907- 830-7677.

Nancy Furlow, president of Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 4, is organizing volunteer seamstresses here as well, and working closely with the Southeast Alaska Mask Maker group.

The news release also gave reminders of the recommendations for best preventing and slowing the spread of COVID-19:

– Avoiding close contact with ill persons remains the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) preferred action to prevent the contracting of any virus.

“The CDC also recommends the continued practice of everyday preventive methods, including washing your hands thoroughly and often; covering of coughs and sneezes; cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects; and getting a flu shot. SEARHC continues to recommend that patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, or immune compromise, should contact their doctor immediately if they become ill, while healthy people should stay home if they become sick.”

Information on the coronavirus is available at covid19.searhc.org.

The SEARHC COVID hotline is 966-8799.

The city also has a COVID-19 link on the city webpage: http://www.cityofsitka.org.



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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30, 2020, 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 5-11-21)

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. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 58

Total statewide – 66,407

Total (cumulative) deaths – 345

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 1,519

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

The City of Sitka posted the following update on COVID-19 cases in Sitka as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Active cases in Sitka – 6

Hospitalizations (cumulative) in Sitka – 5

Cumulative Sitka cases – 369 (323 resident; 46 non-resident)

Cumulative recovered – 362

Deceased (cumulative) – 1

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

• • •


Sitka Vax Stats 

The State of Alaska DHSS reported Tuesday the following statistics on vaccinations for Sitka.

Partially vaccinated – 4,894 (70.43%)

Fully vaccinated – 4,502 (64.79%)

Total population (16+) –6,949

Sitka has vaccinated (with at least one dose) 1,243 (84.1%) of its senior population (1,478 total), age 65 and older. 

Vaccination data for the City and Borough of Sitka can be found online at: https://bit.ly/3apStpb





May 2001

Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau is seeking volunteers to staff its information desks. Those interested in meeting thousands of visitors from all over the world are invited to contact Sandy or Michelle at SCVB.

May 1971

Sitka Police: Lorna Ann Sollars was cited for passing a stop sign. Gary Kuhnle was cited for passing a stop sign. Thomas Allen Sanford was cited for having an out-of-state license for more than 90 days.