A sign in front of Sitka Public Library requiring masks on entry. The city will be distributing free masks at the fire hall on Saturday from 1-3 p.m. (KCAW/Berett Wilber)

Local health officials announced one new coronavirus case today (8-21-20).

The Sitka woman is in her sixties, and was experiencing symptoms when she was tested on August 17. She is now isolating at home, according to a city press release.

She is the thirty-seventh resident to test positive for the coronavirus in Sitka. Fifteen non-residents have also tested positive, for a total of 52 cases. One person has been hospitalized, and four cases are active, according to city data.

Officials received her test results three days after she was tested. At a Sitka Unified Command meeting on Wednesday, SEARHC’s chief medical officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl said that both testing capacity and turn-around time for results have improved in recent weeks. 

“Our testing supplies are strong. We have increasing supplies of test kits,” he said. “And our average turnaround time for send-out tests currently is at 70 hours, it’s been at that level now for the last couple of weeks, and it continues to fall slowly.” 

Bruhl said SEARHC is set to receive new lab equipment and hopes that by September, they will be able to process most test results in-house, which means even faster turn-around times. 

He said the hospital continues to work with Mt. Edgecumbe High School on their reopening plan and how they will isolate students should they test positive. 

Sitka School District Superintendent John Holst said they’re still planning to re-open at the end of next week. Whether they stay open is contingent on the number of new cases in Sitka in a two-week period. But Holst said the district’s plan is flexible. 

“The number 12, which is our movement into red, is not a hard line. It is a guideline. There could be all kinds of circumstances under which we would not consider 12, 13, or 14 a disaster,” he said. “I, personally, think the number of current live cases, of active infections, is an important number.”

He said the last thing he wanted to do was abruptly shut down all schools only to reopen them after a handful of days.

The state recently supplied the school district with two-thousand cloth masks. The city received eight-thousand. In a press release, the EOC announced today that those free masks will be distributed Saturday, August 22, from 1 to 3 p.m. at a temporary drive-thru at the Sitka Fire Hall.