Sitka interim superintendent John Holst says the community took the news of Blatchley’s first positive coronavirus case “in stride.” “This is going to be with us a while,” he said, “and it may be quite a while.”

A staff member at Sitka’s Blatchley Middle School tested positive for the coronavirus late last week (Friday 9-25-20), but school resumed as usual on Monday.

District interim superintendent John Holst says patient privacy laws prevent him from going into too much detail on the case. But he says the district was informed of the positive test on Friday afternoon. From there, he says things went according to plan.

“The processes that we had set in place worked pretty well,” he said, “and we were able to get information out to staff and parents as quickly as possible — which we received almost no calls of any sort that I’m aware of. So people kind of accepted this and took it in stride.”

Blatchley students attend school in the building 5-days-a-week in cohorts of 19 students. None of the student cohorts had to be quarantined. Holst says that public health nurse Denise Ewing handled possible exposures through contact tracing.

“The people who needed to be contacted were contacted by Denise,” Holst said. “And so anybody that did not receive a contact need not be concerned, or worry.”

The confirmed positive on the staff at Blatchley led to rumors about possible cases in other district buildings — all of which Holst says are untrue. Overall, he’s pleased with the community’s reaction to the situation at Blatchley.

“It’s a real compliment to our parents and community members that they don’t automatically panic when something like this happens,” Holst said. “We’re going to be with this for a while, and it may be quite a while.”

The adult staff member at Blatchley was one of three Sitkans whose positive test results came in over the weekend.

All three cases are male residents. One is in his twenties and did not have symptoms at the time of testing on Sept. 24. The case was reported on Saturday (9-26-20) and is classified as community spread on the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. The other two men had symptoms at the time of testing on Saturday (9-26-20) and received their results on Sunday (9-27-20). One is in his twenties, and the other is in his sixties.

Sitka has reported 66 total cases of the coronavirus since April. That includes 49 resident cases and 17 non-resident cases. The city has reported eight new cases in the last two weeks and has increased the community-wide alert level from “low” to “moderate” as a result.