Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. (Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Two cases of COVID-19 in Ketchikan were announced Tuesday in separate facilities where people live in close quarters. One of the positive individuals is a staff member at Residential Youth Care, a nonprofit that operates a pair of youth treatment centers in Ketchikan. Officials won’t say where the other case was identified.

Dustin Larna, the organization’s chief operating and financial officer, said in a statement Wednesday evening that the employee was last at work on Friday, Nov. 13 and is now in isolation. Larna said clients identified as close contacts of the positive staff member each tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday, and residents will undergo a second round of testing in seven to 14 days. Staff members flagged by state public health nurses are in quarantine, and the parents of children exposed have been notified, Larna said.

The organization says it’s working with state and local pandemic response officials to monitor the situation. Larna says Residential Youth Care’s facilities have been disinfected, and employees and clients are required to wear face coverings.

Residential Youth Care operates two single-sex facilities in Ketchikan. In a phone interview Wednesday evening, Larna declined to say whether the staff member worked at the boys’ or girls’ facility in an effort to protect the privacy of the positive employee.

Ketchikan’s emergency operations center announced Wednesday that health officials were unable to determine the source of the infection, leading them to classify the case as “community spread.”

The other new case is an individual that local pandemic response officials say is “involved with a separate congregate setting facility.” That case was also classified as community spread. Local officials declined to provide more information.

Tuesday’s cases are the first in close-quarters facilities since this summer, when four fish processing employees tested positive.

KRBD reached out to several facilities and state officials in an effort to determine who’s at risk and who’s affected. Aside from Residential Youth Care, none of those contacted confirmed that the case was at their facility.

A state corrections spokesperson says it’s not at Ketchikan’s jail. The administrator of Ketchikan’s Pioneer Home said it’s not at the state-run assisted living home, either. State officials have previously confirmed cases in prisons and Pioneer Homes outside of Ketchikan.

Officials with various local organizations also denied that the new cases occurred at their facilities:

  • The head of Women in Safe Homes says their domestic violence shelter remains COVID-free.
  • The owner of the Manor, a small, private assisted living home, also denies that anyone at that West End facility is positive.
  • First City Homeless Services says they’re unaware of any coronavirus cases in their downtown day shelter.
  • PeaceHealth, which operates the city’s hospital and a long-term care facility in town, says the new cases are not related to their organization.
  • Akeela’s regional clinical director for Southeast says the nonprofit’s KAR House, a Newtown-area addiction treatment center, has not seen any cases of COVID-19.
  • The executive director of the Park Avenue Temporary Home says neither of the new cases are related to that downtown shelter for people without homes.

State health department spokesperson Clinton Bennett declined to share the location of the new cases, saying state officials don’t release that information unless there’s a need to protect public health or contact unidentified individuals. In a statement, he said that if the department thought that was the case, health officials would release that information through normal channels.