A sign directs disembarking passengers at the Airport coronavirus screening by Allen Marine employees (Erin McKinstry, KCAW)

Following rising case counts across Alaska, Sitka’s Unified Command is encouraging residents to take advantage of free airport testing when traveling in-state.

Almost every region in Alaska is operating on a high alert level, but case counts in Sitka remain low. Excluding Juneau, Southeast Alaska has the lowest case rate per capita of any region in the state.

At this/last week’s Unified Command meeting, local officials urged residents to remain diligent, especially when traveling outside the region. Jessica Ieremia is a public information officer for the City and Borough of Sitka.

“All the actions that we do decide to take can help mitigate the spread, so taking advantage of that testing at the airport is a really good decision,” she said.

Sitka has five active cases of the coronavirus, according to city data. The two newest cases, reported Wednesday and Thursday, are both Sitka School District employees.

Sitka public health nurse Grace Roller said at the meeting that there’s been a lag in reporting coronavirus data because the state is overwhelmed with new cases.

“I think the state is a little bit behind in their entry. Given they’re kind of overloaded with all the cases that are thrown at them to enter everyday,” she said. And so you know, we saw cases of 500, 300 — those kinds of things every day. So I think that’s a little bit of the lag.”

City Administrator John Leach said Sitka is able to support Halloween trick-or-treating events because local case counts are low. He urged Sitkans to continue following best practices as the holidays approach, so that businesses can remain open and students can stay in school.

Erin McKinstry is a Report for America corps member.