From the archive: The Backdoor Cafe in November 2020, like many other local businesses, had a sanitizing station with masks, and tape on the floor to show customers where to stand to maintain six feet of distance. This photo was taken during the first small wave of coronavirus that Sitka experienced. The second much larger surge took off in July of 2021, when the delta variant arrived to Alaska. The third wave rolled in this winter, when the omicron variant led to a spike in cases, though hospitalizations remained low (KCAW/Berett Wilber)

Sitka’s COVID alert level has been downgraded to “low” for the first time since the Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance that weighs a community’s hospitalization rate more heavily than new cases.

Today (4-7-22) the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 14 new cases in Sitka over the last week, a drop from the 17 cases reported the week before– just enough to shift Sitka’s alert level from “medium” to “low.” 

While Sitka’s weekly COVID numbers are still higher than they were before omicron became the dominant variant in January, this week’s report continues a downward trend in cases that began in mid-February.

Both the Alaska Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control have moved to once-a-week updates. New case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths will be reported on Thursdays.

While cases are on the decline in Sitka, epidemiologists are watching the BA.2 variant closely to see whether it will cause a new spike in cases in the United States. The omicron subvariant has become dominant in the US in recent weeks, and constitutes around 45 % of Alaska’s new cases. State epidemiologists continue to say vaccination and boosters are the best line of defense against COVID. While 75% of Sitkans have received their initial vaccine series, only 43% received a booster shot.