While this winter’s omicron surge is tapering in some parts of the US, and even in some remote Southeast communities, cases in Sitka have declined only slightly this week.

When the Sitka Unified Command met on January 26, SEARHC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl said that Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center continues to see hospitalizations, but not at very high rates. 

“Generally it’s running between two to four patients,” Bruhl said. “And some of those patients, it’s really more of an incidental finding than the primary medical problem.”

As of Thursday morning (1-27-22) Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center was reporting one current COVID-19 hospitalization. 

“One of the biggest challenges we have, of course, is keeping all of our clinics and all of our activities staffed,” Bruhl continued.

SEARHC serves numerous remote communities in Southeast Alaska, including clinics in Angoon, Pelican and Kake. Bruhl said they’ve been working diligently to support remote communities in recent weeks amid the omicron surge, and for some, things are looking up.  

“We’ve seen the surge starting to subside in some of the communities,” Bruhl said. “Sitka continues to have fairly high rates. Anywhere from 20 to 30 cases, pretty regularly. Although we’ve had a few days where it’s dropped down into the single digits.” 

On Wednesday, Alaska’s chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink reported that cases are still trending upward statewide, with more than 93 percent of cases attributed to the omicron variant. Bruhl said that the science still points to boosters being a good defense, even with the evolution of the virus. 

“One thing I’ll say from a scientific standpoint is that the numbers of people who are contracting the omicron COVID-19 are much, much lower in people who have received boosters,” Bruhl said. “We continue to recommend boosters for folks over age 12, and continue to require it of our employees.” 

According to state data, only around 40 percent of Sitkans have received a booster shot, although that number includes children under 12 who do not yet qualify for the third vaccine dose.