A transmission electron micrograph of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. (Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

With just 14 cases of COVID-19 since June 1, and the community’s risk level at “low,” Ketchikan’s emergency operations center says it’s planning to cease operations late next month.

Ketchikan’s COVID-19 incident commander, Abner Hoage, says ordinary government agencies and private businesses will fill the gap.

“So we met with public health officials yesterday, and they are now prepared to … take on the remaining duties that the EOC is currently doing,” Hoage said.

At this point, he says the EOC is primarily serves two functions.

“We’ve been gathering statistics from our local providers and updating the dashboard each day,” Hoage said. “And we have been providing some PSAs to the community on where they can get tested or where they can get vaccinated, and that sort of thing.”

After July 23, Ketchikan’s local COVID-19 dashboard and its locally-determined risk level will no longer be updated. Hoage says the state health department will keep track of COVID cases and the risk level on its website.

Hoage says Ketchikan’s EOC has been winding down its operations for months.

Most recently, the EOC stopped offering drive-up COVID-19 testing on Ketchikan’s cruise ship docks last week. The state health department is planning to stand up a new drive-up testing site in the parking lot of Ketchikan’s Alaska Marine Highway System terminal early next month, state public health nurse Arizona Jacobs said in an interview.

“But they’re still waiting on some contractual agreements to be signed and finalized before they can start. So we are looking at a little gap for this whole week, and we’re expecting a gap through next week, but should have some concrete answers by Friday, (July 9),” Jacobs said.

She said in the meantime, people who would like a COVID-19 test will need to seek alternative options.

“First, you should go to your primary care provider, if you have health insurance and talk to them about getting tested,” Jacobs said. “If you don’t have a primary care provider, or you don’t have insurance, or you can’t afford your co-pay, then you can start reaching out for some other options, specifically to (Ketchikan Public Health Center) to ask for testing. We will prioritize people based on need.”

Those who need free testing at the Public Health office won’t need to submit special forms or demonstrate their need to get it, Jacobs said. The number for Ketchikan Public Health Center is 225-4350.

Ketchikan EOC commander Hoage says that while the EOC is shutting down, that doesn’t mean COVID-19 is gone.

“You still need to follow recommendations, you still need to remain aware of what’s changed with COVID and take actions that are appropriate to protect yourself and and to protect others who may be at higher risk,” Hoage said.

Hoage thanked the community for keeping COVID-19 largely under control over the past 15 months. He said if COVID-19 cases flare up enough that the state public health department can’t handle the surge, the EOC could be reactivated.