Sarah Palmer talks to a driver before administering a COVID-19 test in December 2020. On Tuesday, the City and Borough of Juneau reported an uptick in cases identified over the weekend that included Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, the community’s COVID risk level remains at the moderate level, which was set last week after months with the community risk level set at high. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Sarah Palmer talks to a driver before administering a COVID-19 test in December 2020. On Tuesday, the City and Borough of Juneau reported an uptick in cases identified over the weekend that included Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, the community’s COVID risk level remains at the moderate level, which was set last week after months with the community risk level set at high. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

COVID-19 cases tick up over holiday weekend

Two CBJ employees among those testing positive

One week after the community’s COVID-19 risk level was lowered from high to moderate, Juneau’s COVID-19 trend line ticked up with 22 new cases reported Tuesday, officials said at a weekly community briefing.

The new count represents all cases reported over the long weekend, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. Overall, Juneau’s seven-day rolling positivity rate was 1.49% as of Tuesday.

“The numbers today are a combination of things,” said City and Borough Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove, who is also the emergency operations center incident commander.

She said that some of the cases are community spread, some are travel-related and some come from family spread.

“I’m not ready to say it’s from holidays, but we need to watch and see,” Cosgrove said.

Despite the rise in cases, the community risk level will remain at the moderate level. The risk level is driven by a constellation of factors that include hospital capacity, contact tracing and how the disease is spreading.

“We are looking at all things in balance. The last thing we want to do is whipsaw our levels around. That’s hard on the public,” Cosgrove said.

She added that city officials talk with public health officials daily about the community risk level but that at this time, there are no plans to make a change.

“We saw more cases over the weekend. More than we’d like to see. Today’s theme is really about not letting our guard down,” said CBJ city manager Rorie Watt.

COVID-19 hits City Hall

Two CBJ employees, who were not identified during the briefing, were among those recently diagnosed with COVID-19.

Cosgrove said that based on work logs and job responsibilities, CBJ officials said they are confident that no members of the public had been exposed.

However, out of an abundance of caution, about a dozen CBJ employees are working from home for the week. Those sent home to work were in the building on the same floor as the workers who tested positive.

“We don’t want to create a situation,” Cosgrove said, noting that the city is following guidance from a health consultant to manage the situation.

Watching for new strains

City officials said that while none of the new COVID-19 strains found in the United Kingdom and other states have been detected in Alaska, they will likely arrive with increased travel.

“The news is full of strains that are more easily shared. We have to assume they will come here. The takeaway for us is that because we know these variants are more transmissible, we need to be a little more careful and make sure that we don’t let our guard down. The same mitigation strategies that we’ve been employing will keep our numbers low,” said Robert Barr, planning chief for the city’s emergency operations center.

Barr said that Alaska is actively testing for new strains on a routine basis and conducts tests at a higher rate than other states.

“We know it’s going to get here if people travel,” Cosgrove said, noting the importance of following travel rules when returning to Juneau.

“If you come through the airport, we need you to isolate yourself and protect the community,” Cosgrove said.

Local vaccine rollout continues

Barr said the vaccine event held over the weekend was successful and that he hopes to announce a second one late next week once more supply information is available. He expects the criteria for the next clinic to include people over age 65 and health care workers.

“We’d like to vaccinate everybody,” Watt said.

But due to limited supply of doses, that’s impossible.

“If we had as much vaccine as we wanted, we’d stand up a 24 hour-a-day clinic to get it out,” Cosgrove added.

[Vaccines are coming, but pandemic facilities will remain]

[Sidebar]

Looking for a vaccine?

If you are eligible for a vaccine and interested in getting one, several local providers are enrolled with the state and are taking appointments, according to the city. State-enrolled providers follow Alaska’s eligibility system. Here’s a list of enrolled providers and how to make an appointment with each, as of Tuesday, Jan. 19:

Book an appointment online

■ Costco, 5225 Commercial Blvd.

https://book-costcopharmacy.appointment-plus.com/ct6d96bk/

■ Fred Meyer Pharmacy, 8181 Glacier Highway.

https://myhealth.alaska.gov/clinic/search

■ Genoa Healthcare, located within JAHMI Health & Wellness Midtown Clinic, 1944 Allen Court, Suite A

https://myhealth.alaska.gov/clinic/search

■ Safeway Pharmacy, 3033 Vintage Blvd.

https://kordinator.mhealthcoach.net/vcl/Juneau

Book an appointment by phone

■ Juneau Urgent and Family Care, 8505 Old Dairy Road. 790-4111 (press 2)

■ Ron’s Apothecary Shoppe, 9105 Mendenhall Mall Road.789-0458

If you’re eligible but can’t get an appointment, keep trying. New appointments open up regularly. You can find more information about

Are you eligible?

Visit covidvax.alaska.gov to learn more about state eligibility guidelines. Vaccine managed by the Alaska Tribal Health System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Defense may have different eligibility criteria and system for administering the vaccine. Beneficiaries of Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) can find vaccine information on SEARHC’s website.

Contact Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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