Juneau emergency staff inundated with questions about city’s response to COVID-19 during community update

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Juneau Emergency Operations Director Robert Barr and Bartlett Hospital Quality Team Member Rebecca Embler work during the Juneau COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at Centennial Hall on January 15, 2021 in Juneau . (Photo by Rashah McChesney / KTOO)

Updated at 20:21

During Juneau’s latest COVID-19 community update, people had a lot of questions; health officials spent about an hour responding to them.

Some residents are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in schools in Juneau and question whether the measures taken by the district to limit the transmission of the virus are working.

“We have seen limited transmission in schools,” Emergency Director Robert Barr said. “But most of the case activity that we’ve seen in schools has started outside of schools.”

At the state level, data on new cases has fallen further and further behind in recent weeks. But state public health nurse April Rezendes said the state had largely cleared the backlog. She said there is a one to two day lag now. This means that the figures reported by the state give a fairly accurate picture of COVID-19 in communities.

The number of Juneau cases is tending to increase. On average in September, 27 new people a day test positive for the virus – the highest on record.

As the number of cases increased in the state, the city was cut off from the kind of detailed information on each case it previously obtained. Now, local authorities are relying on the state for numbers and major trends regarding people who catch and transmit the virus.

Barr said Juneau is unlikely to revert to local notification of positive cases unless state notification begins to fall behind again. He said the move freed up time for Juneau emergency personnel to focus on testing and contact tracing.

With hospital capacity in Anchorage and Seattle at its limit, many people also wondered about Juneau’s hospital capacity and medical evacuation. For now, the hospital is under pressure but not overwhelmed.

“I mean our ability to really handle a car crash or serious injury hasn’t changed,” said Kim McDowell, Head Nurse at Bartlett Regional Hospital. “We are still very capable of handling this. Our staff, you know, are very well trained and, you know, are capable of handling these situations. “

But she said the medevac was a bit trickier as hospitals in Anchorage and across the Pacific Northwest are seeing an increase in patient numbers. While Bartlett can handle most emergency care, specialist care for things like trauma may require medical evacuation. And some hospitals might not be able to accept them.

She said if no hospital can accept a medevac, then all the hospital staff can do is take care of the patient the best they can with the resources available.

Officials in Juneau will hold a COVID-19 community update at 4 p.m. today.

You can watch the meeting via Zoom Where Facebook Live. You can also call 1-253-215-8782 or 1-346-248-7799 with webinar ID 985 6308 5159.

Health officials will make a presentation and answer questions from community members afterwards.

Over the weekend, officials in Juneau reported 95 positive cases and the death of a Juneau resident. Yesterday, they also reported that there were “about 193 active cases” in Juneau.

Officials have identified a few trends in the way the virus is spread – social gatherings, households, Juneau schools, daycares, some workplaces and travel.

Vaccines are still effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. 80% of Juneau residents eligible for the vaccine are fully vaccinated and 69% of the total population is vaccinated.


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