What’s Ketchikan’s COVID-19 risk level? Officials hope new assessment tool will help provide the answer

This chart is part of the pandemic risk assessment tool recently released by Ketchikan officials. It’s still in draft form, and will be used to recommend public health policies if case levels shift.

 

What’s Ketchikan’s pandemic risk level? And what can officials do to reduce its risk?

Those are both questions that Ketchikan officials hope to address with a new tool in development that’s been making the rounds among elected officials.

The draft was released to the public last week. Emergency Manager Abner Hoage briefed the Borough Assembly on Monday.

[Click here for a link to the draft risk assessment tool]

“The idea is to provide a set of tools really that are kind of transparent to the public, that are consistent and objective with what our risk indicators are, the data that it’s based on, so you can look at that and go, ‘oh, I see how they got to this level, I see why they’re recommending this,’” Hoage said Monday.

Broadly, the tool takes three indicators:

  1. the prevalence of the coronavirus in Ketchikan, including whether recent cases were a result of travel or spread within the community; 
  2. the local healthcare capacity — including bed counts and the number of infected healthcare workers;
  3. and health officials’ capacity to trace positive patients’ contacts and quarantine people who may have been exposed.

From those indicators, the tool assigns a risk level: low, moderate, high or very high. The tool also gives guidelines for when to raise or lower a level. 

Each risk level comes with its own distinct set of recommendations for local leaders to consider.

These recommendations include guidelines for schools, travel, business and municipal government, bars, restaurants, gyms, general public health protocols and more.

For example, going up a level might trigger recommendations for scaling back  class sizes at schools or for beefed-up mask requirements in public settings like restaurants. Going down a level would relax restrictions and ease guidance. 

Ketchikan is currently at level one. It advises allowing businesses to stay open with some basic precautions.  And at that low risk level, the tool also recommends allowing schools to re-open at full capacity, though it does note that students should be spread between traditional classrooms and what the district calls “annexes” — essentially, extra classroom space. 

Meanwhile, the highest level advises instituting a mask mandate and closing schools and other public spaces.

To be clear, the tool outputs recommendations based on local pandemic conditions for local elected officials — not binding policies.

Hoage says officials are now looking for community feedback.

“Take a look at it, if anything doesn’t make sense, if you think some of the indicators are out of whack, let us know and we will incorporate appropriate changes as necessary,” he said.

The document is still in draft form. Comments and suggestions can be submitted via email to covidquestions@kgbak.us.

KRBD’s Eric Stone contributed to this report.

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