When the Sitka Unified Command met on Wednesday (2-19-21), there was still uncertainty around the recent expiration of the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration.

City Administrator John Leach was concerned about how the change could affect vaccine allocations and FEMA reimbursements to the city. 

“From what I’m seeing, the vaccine is still being distributed, it’s still showing up here,” he said. “But I don’t know what that means on a broader scale. Is the federal government distributing to the state of Alaska at the same rate if we’re not under and emergency declaration? But, for the time being, vaccines are still coming and and we’re still putting them in arms.”

The legislature may still extend the emergency declaration, which could solve some of Leach’s concerns. But even with some uncertainty, Leach said he was feeling positive for a few reasons. For a week, Sitka has been in a ‘low’ alert level, with only two new COVID cases reported as of Friday. And Sitka’s vaccination rate is climbing. 

“Our vaccination rate right now, I don’t have the exact numbers. But we’re up, probably close to 50 percent if not over 50 percent,” he said. “That makes me feel great.”

That’s 50 percent of Sitkans who are eligible for the vaccine, not all Sitkans. Sitka School District Superintendent John Holst said the school district’s immunization rate for staff is more than 85 percent. And spokesperson Maegan Bosak reported that, to date, SEARHC had administered just over 3000 first doses and just under 1700 second doses at their clinics. Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing said that the city will be receiving some extra doses as they roll out vaccinations for resident and non-resident seafood industry workers beginning in March.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, Sitka has reported 320 coronavirus cases. As of Friday afternoon, two of those cases were active.

Editor’s Note: This story originally aired on Friday afternoon, when there were two confirmed active COVID cases in Sitka. Over the weekend, the city reported two more cases. As of Sunday evening, there are four active COVID cases, but the city remains at a low alert level. Find the most up-to-date city coronavirus data here.