Ketchikan is seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases. But emergency officials have stopped short of calling for a community-wide lockdown.
Officials say a record 74 people are infected with COVID-19 in Ketchikan as of Monday. More than 50 cases are tied to restaurants owned by Saxman-based Cape Fox Corporation.
Ketchikan’s pandemic response chief Abner Hoage says it’s part of a widening outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Our previous seven-day count is 10 community transmission cases, which goes over into the Level 4 area of our risk indicator,” Hoage told reporters Monday.
Level 4 is the top of the chart for community risk. But he says he’s not ready to go there yet. Ketchikan has been at Level 3 since last week, which reduced the time students spend in classrooms. It also asked businesses to adhere to voluntary restrictions.
The last four days has seen a reduction in the rate of community transmission, so he said he’s hesitant to push the needle further.
“We’re going to take the least measure possible to get the change that we want,” he said.
If the EOC were to go to Level 4 — that’s “very high” — he’d recommend the city issue a “hunker down” advisory and urge people to stay home.
So, why is that not happening now?
Well, for one, Hoage says the community just recently moved to high risk less than a week ago.
“Two days from going to Level 3 to jump to Level 4 — one, that seemed like a big jump to push the community through those hoops without giving a chance for these mitigation measures to take effect,” Hoage said.
But also, Hoage said he’s seeing some key measures of COVID-19 activity begin to decrease.
“The community transmission cases have started to trend down,” he said.
The positivity rate appears to be peaking, too, Hoage said. And two of the four positive patients at the local hospital have been discharged.
Hoage says that taken together, those mean Ketchikan may be getting a handle on this outbreak.
“It does look like we potentially peaked over the weekend,” Hoage said.
So for now, officials are urging people to wear their masks, wash their hands, and keep their distance, telecommute and think twice about risky activities — but they’re not asking them to stay home or close their businesses. Yet.
Of course, that could change. Hoage says that if community spread or another metric starts to rise again, pandemic response officials may consider stronger — and possibly mandatory — restrictions.