Capital City Fire/Rescue recently distributed challenge coins as a thank you to the emergency workers and staff who assisted with COVID-19 testing at the Juneau International Airport from March 2020 until Jan. 31. On Feb. 1, state contractor Capstone took over airport testing. (Courtesy Photo/City and Borough of Juneau)

COVID-19 testing continues at the airport under new management

Capstone takes over efforts from CBJ and CCFR

Although COVID-19 testing and screening continues at the Juneau International Airport airport, the company doing the work has changed.

On Feb. 1, Capstone, a contractor to the state of Alaska, started screening travelers arriving at the Juneau International Airport for COVID-19. They take over the operation that Capital City Fire/Rescue and the City and Borough of Juneau started on March 25, 2020.

“Operations ran seven days a week for up to 14 hours a day,” said Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove, who is also the incident commander for the Emergency Operations Center that helped to stand up testing last spring.

In an email last week, Cosgrove said that over 313 days, CCFR and CBJ welcomed 75,071 passengers into Juneau and screened about half of them on site. Others arrived with negative test results in hand and were able to skip the screening process.

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“Screening included greeting passengers, checking their paperwork, and advising them of local rules. That would really be pretty much everyone arriving,” Cosgrove said.

She explained that testing included a smaller subset for various reasons, including the different rules for residents and non-residents and those arriving with negative tests taken within 72 hours of arrival.

“Difficult passengers were encountered daily,” Cosgrove said. But, staff prevailed, and “well less than one percent of arriving passengers left the airport out of compliance with the state health mandates.”.

Overall, 23,909 COVID-19 tests were completed while CBJ was at the helm with a cost of about $152,000 a month, Cosgrove said. The expenses were reimbursed by the state and included some set-up costs spread out across the length of the effort. Additional charges were incurred for test processing at a private lab. The state also covered those expenses.

In a Facebook post shared late last week, CCFR Chief Rich Etheridge expressed his thanks to the emergency workers who helped with the testing effort. The post said that emergency workers and staff were recently honored with a CCFR Challenge Coin.

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“We would like to thank all of the community members that jumped in and filled these roles. They did an amazing job under stressful conditions. We are happy to report none of our emergency workers contracted COVID-19 during these operations. Masks and universal precautions do work,” he said in the post.

CCFR continues to run the COVID-19 Screening Hotline and the drive-thru testing facility at the Hagevig Fire Training Center. City officials encourage residents experiencing any symptoms — no matter how mild — to get call 586-6000 between 8 and 5 daily to schedule an appointment for a test.

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

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