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)

Sitka Stars in National COVID Response

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

Alaska ranks sixth highest in the nation for the number of tests given per capita and has the third fewest cases per population, City Administrator John Leach told the Unified Command group Wednesday.

He was referencing a state news release from the Department of Health and Social Services.

Through June 25, 102,849 tests had been given in Alaska. And 18,427 were performed in the current week, through Wednesday.

“Test positivity rate for this week was 0.8%,” Leach said. “Meaning around eight per every thousand tests performed, came back positive. ... Alaska has also had the fewest deaths of any state and the second fewest cases.”

He added:

“(DHSS) says one caveat is, the number of tests includes residents and non-residents while the population is based on residents only. If non-residents were included, we would have even fewer cases per population ...”

Unified Command is the group of healthcare, city, education and emergency responders coordinating the local response to the pandemic.

Lisa Gassman, general manager of Sitka Tribe of Alaska, said STA has been busy processing applications from tribal citizens seeking help for the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said STA opened the application period a week ago and in the first few days received 1,200 applications.

Gassman added STA staff members are getting COVID tests for returning to work, but STA offices will remain closed, with appointments needed for meetings with staff.

Attending a weekly UC meeting for the first time, Mt. Edgecumbe High School superintendent Janelle Vanasse told the group that the state boarding school has been working for some time on a plan to open in the fall.

“I think we do have a plan,” she said.

Sitka interim school superintendent John Holst talked about discussions at last week’s meeting of the district’s task force on a plan to reopen Sitka schools for the fall term.

“We’re kind of trying to figure out how to put this all together into one package, which may or may not be easy, but we’ll see,” he said. 

On June 24 Holst conducted a listening session on the issue of reopening the schools, attended by 40 staff members on Zoom and 20 in person.

“People have a lot of questions but there doesn’t seem to be a sense of panic among the staff, at least among the ones we saw,” he said. “The biggest issue we’re going to have is going to be personnel.”

That includes accommodating staff with compromised immune systems and those with pandemic-related anxiety.

Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing said she’s staying busy with contact tracing on the positive cases in Sitka. She noted three of the most recent cases in Sitka were nonresidents and seasonal workers.

She said public health is so short-handed that it plans to reduce check-ins with quarantined cases from daily to three times a week. Active cases will continue to be checked on daily.

Ewing listed the positive cases in Sitka by age group:

1. 20-29, 19.94 percent

2. 30-39, 19.53 percent

3. 50-59, 16.26 percent.

4. 40-49, 15.13 percent

5. 60-69, 10.12 percent

6. 10-19, 7.77 percent

7. 70 -79, 5.38 percent

8. 80 and above, 1.94 percent

Referring to the 20 to 39 age groups, Ewing commented, “We are seeing a lot of asymptomatic people in that age range as well as symptomatic, but I am seeing an increase personally, in the cases that I do – in asymptomatic.”

In his update, Fire Chief Dave Miller mentioned the airport is getting busier, requiring more time from him and others to help with testing.

The city information officer Jessica Ieremia said the city and other groups are coordinating promotions to encourage social distancing and other precautions over the Fourth weekend.

Richard Wein, a medical doctor and the Assembly liaison to the group, questioned the presentation of DHSS statistics in the website “dashboard,” namely the statistic for cumulative hospital beds used for COVID.

“The statistics are promoting fear and anxiety,” he said today. “In context, there are fleetingly few beds used for the diagnosis for COVID.”

Wein also pointed to problems being observed involving kids’ and adolescents’ use of masks. “In general, kids have no mask discipline, which reduces their effectiveness,” he said, referring to recent studies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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