Sitka residents arrive for a COVID-19 vaccine at the Sitka firehall. The firehall is also where the EOC often met throughout the pandemic (KCAW photo/Berett Wilber)

Two years after it was established in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Sitka Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is shutting down, at least for the time being.

When the EOC met on Wednesday (3-23-22), Fire Chief Craig Warren said that the team, which includes representatives from public health, schools, and first responders, was possibly meeting for the last time. 

“We do know that people are still continuing to get sick with COVID-19. But the hospitalizations are way down from when this first started,” he said. “Taking all of that into account, we are going to suspend the Emergency Operations Center for the COVID-19 response. Don’t take that as we’re not paying attention, we’re not going to keep watching and we’re not going to come back together if it’s needed.”

Warren said the change would include phasing out COVID data that’s published to the city’s website. Rather than tracking cases locally, the city dashboard will link to the data provided by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. And then at the end of April, the city’s dashboard will be closed down. 

“We’re going to start backing off what is available through Sitka, and what manpower we have to keep putting out this response,” Warren said.

“We would come back together quickly if the need arises. If we have a variant that pops up, that turns into not just a ‘variant of concern,’ but now we’re dealing with very sick people and lots of them, we would get back together to start helping SEARHC.” 

Warren said the city has an abundance of COVID testing supplies, which are available at several locations, including the library. And he asked that people still stay home and take a COVID test if they’re feeling sick.