Update (3-17-20) 7:15 PM- The Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center reported a positive test for COVID-19 on Tuesday, the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Southeast Alaska. There are now six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.
As of Tuesday (3-17-20) there were still no reported cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the Southeast communities of Haines, Klawock, Juneau, Wrangell, and Sitka. SEARHC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl, in an interview with KCAW on Tuesday morning, said so far, all tests the consortium conducted in the region had come back negative.
“We’ve been testing many patients — patients who are sick and have been travelling,” he said. “Throughout Southeast Alaska we’ve done dozens of tests, and to date we haven’t had anyone positive, thank goodness.”
Last week SEARHC medical providers began conducting tests for the COVID-19 coronavirus throughout the Southeast communities of Haines, Klawock, Juneau, Wrangell and Sitka. SEARHC currently has 1,300 tests within its system. Not everyone who wants one can be tested, however. Right now, tests are limited to those experiencing symptoms, like fever and cough, and who believe that they may have been exposed to the virus through travel or contact.
Much like South Korea, SEARHC is setting up special locations specifically to administer coronavirus tests.
“We’re setting up in each of these communities a location that’s outside of the clinics and outside of the hospital to keep patients who have mild symptoms and need to be tested to keep them out of the hospital and out of the clinics,” he said. “Because we’re trying to keep those places safe for all of the patients that need to get care.”
In Sitka, that will be a drive-thru tent. Bruhl says the testing locations will be operational later this week. The tests are sent out-of-town to a lab, and results are available within 2-3 days.
In Sitka, people can call 966.2411 to request coronavirus screening. The SEARHC Nurse Advice Line is staffed 24 hours a day at 1.800.613.0560.