The pace of new COVID-19 cases in the southern panhandle is picking up. On Friday, authorities reported 11 new cases in Ketchikan, 12 on Prince of Wales Island and three in Metlakatla.
The 11 new Ketchikan cases bring the community’s active case total to 26. One person is hospitalized in the COVID-19 wing at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center as of Friday’s update.
Five of the new cases were reported in a place where people live and work in close proximity, though public health data does not show precisely where. Of the past week’s 26 new cases, half have been detected in so-called “congregate settings.”
A PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center spokesperson says one of the new congregate setting cases was found in a resident of its long-term care unit. The person is reportedly mildly symptomatic and does not require a higher level of care. Five other patients in the 21-resident unit and one long-term care staff member tested positive earlier this week.
The majority of the new cases — 7 of the 11 — were detected in people who had not received a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines are free and available at a wide variety of local doctors’ offices and pharmacies, including at grocery stores.
Though the vaccine does not fully protect against COVID-19 infections, experts say vaccinated people tend to have less severe symptoms and are much less likely to be hospitalized or die from the disease.
Free rapid COVID-19 testing is available five days a week at a clinic outside Ketchikan’s Alaska Marine Highway System terminal.
Prince of Wales Island
Of the 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Prince of Wales Island, six are Craig residents and five are residents of unnamed smaller communities. One is a nonresident who is isolating in a community of less than 1,000 people.
Since March, 88% of Prince of Wales Island’s COVID-19 cases have been detected in people who are not vaccinated against the disease. Vaccines are free and available at SEARHC Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock, PeaceHealth’s Craig clinic, and Craig Public Health.
COVID-19 testing is available at those same locations, according to a state testing locator.
A total of 34 cases are active on Prince of Wales Island as of Friday. An all-time monthly high of 44 cases have been recorded on the island in the month of July. More information is available in a recorded message at 888-894-1321, the Prince of Wales Island COVID-19 hotline.
Metlakatla Indian Community reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. That ended a month-and-a-half stretch with no active cases in the Annette Islands Reserve.
Masks and social distancing are mandatory for all residents and visitors to the reserve, and gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people, according to a public notice posted by the tribe.
Nearly all unvaccinated residents and visitors are required to quarantine for 10 days. Metlakatla requires quarantines for people who arrive from areas of moderate or high COVID-19 risk, which includes most of Alaska and the Lower 48. Vaccinated arrivals are required to show their vaccine cards, and all are required to check in with COVID-19 trackers upon arrival in Metlakatla.
Testing and vaccinations are available at the Annette Island Service unit. The AISU hotline is 617-7200.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s newly-updated guidance recommends that masks be worn indoors in areas of elevated COVID-19 transmission, including all of the southern panhandle, regardless of vaccination status.