SMOOTH SAILING – A troller cruises across Sitka Sound during a hazy sunset Friday evening. (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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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-4-20)

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 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 59

Total statewide – 3,394

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 17 (12 resident; 5 non-resident) *

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

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 136.

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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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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20 YEARS AGO
August 2000

The School Board Tuesday discussed district policy on head lice. At present, students found to have head lice are kept from school until all lice are removed. The revised policy allows students who have nits to remain in school, with information on treatment and a nit-removing comb to be sent home with them.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

Legal notice: Sealed bids will be received ... for furnishing and installation of siding on the City
Garage, located on Halibut Point Road. ... City of Sitka, Alaska Fermin Gutierrez, Director of Public Works. 

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