Hundreds of Ketchikan residents attended a downtown parade celebrating high schoolers’ graduation Saturday. Few wore masks or kept their distance from others. The local emergency manager warned the community could be letting its guard down in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s been more than six weeks since authorities announced a new coronavirus case in Ketchikan.
“We were successful at stopping the spread in Ketchikan of COVID-19,” said pandemic emergency manager Abner Hoage. “Maybe we were too successful.”
“Many people in the community have become complacent. They no longer believe the virus is a threat. You see people out not wearing masks, not following social distancing,” he said. “But eventually we will have another case of COVID-19 in Ketchikan.”
And when it emerges, Hoage said individuals’ and businesses’ adherence to public health precautions will have a direct effect on the spread of the virus. He asked residents to continue to wash their hands, disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and wear masks in public.
He said more than 100 people are arriving at Ketchikan’s airport from out of state daily, increasing the risk to the community.
He said Ketchikan’s recent parent-organized graduation parade was “disappointing.”
“The 2020 graduating students participated in a parade to celebrate their accomplishments, appropriately social distanced as they walked down the promenade — while the people they look up to, their friends and family, were crowded together in tight formations with no masks and no social distancing along the sidelines,” Hoage said. “Not a great example for those young people.”
Hoage said Ketchikan’s emergency operations center is concerned for a simple reason:
“If someone in that crowd has COVID-19, we could see significant spread due to that event,” he said.
Hoage’s warning comes as health officials report a spike in cases in Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula. The number of active coronavirus cases in the state more than doubled in the week between May 26 and June 2 from 46 to 106. That’s after state officials lifted capacity limits on bars and restaurants and allowed businesses to reopen without restrictions.