Free at-home test kits are available in Juneau at City Hall and all Juneau public libraries, masks and kits are available to patients experiencing symptoms at Bartlett Regional Hospital and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Free at-home test kits are available in Juneau at City Hall and all Juneau public libraries, masks and kits are available to patients experiencing symptoms at Bartlett Regional Hospital and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Free at-home test kits are available in Juneau at City Hall and all Juneau public libraries, masks and kits are available to patients experiencing symptoms at Bartlett Regional Hospital and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File) Free at-home test kits are available in Juneau at City Hall and all Juneau public libraries, masks and kits are available to patients experiencing symptoms at Bartlett Regional Hospital and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

COVID-19 tests still available amid New Year’s celebrations

Respiratory viruses remain at high levels, officials say.

This article has been moved in front of the Juneau Empire’s paywall.

Feeling under the weather ahead of the New Year but unsure if it’s C​​OVID, the flu or respiratory syncytial virus? There are ample opportunities here in Juneau to find out before celebrations begin.

According to George Schaaf, City and Borough of Juneau logistics section chief of the emergency operations center, the city continues to provide tests to the public and supplies can be found at any of the city libraries or City Hall.

Schaaf said the city offers masks to residents upon request when entering a CBJ facility, however, it does not offer a bulk supply. Schaaf said if residents request further supplies, the city typically refers them to a retail store for purchase.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly influenza report, the seasonal illness remains at a high level in the U.S. with more than 6% of health care visits reporting the illness as the cause for the visit. However, the CDC reported it appears to be declining in most areas.

That seems to be the case here in Juneau, according to Erin Hardin, Bartlett Regional Hospital director of marketing and communications, who said in the past few weeks the hospital has seen an increase in patients with respiratory viruses like influenza A and RSV, with the influx of patients appearing to reach its peak this week.

Hardin said despite the increase, operations continue to remain stable and signs point to the infection rate slowing down and continue to encourage residents to get a flu vaccine if they have not already done so.

If residents are looking to mask up ahead of the new year, Hardin said masks are provided to patients or visitors upon request, though masks are not mandatory following the hospital’s change in its previously required masking policy in its facilities along with a change in its pre-procedure testing policies in late October.

Along with the change in masking policy, the hospital also stopped its drive-thru testing site in mid-November, though Hardin said COVID tests are provided to inpatients who present symptoms, noting BRH is well stocked for its patients requiring or requesting masks or tests.

According to Lyndsey Schaefer, director of marketing and communications at the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, all SEARHC clinics across Southeast Alaska have home kits that can be ordered and distributed to patients as needed, along with both COVID testing sites in Juneau and Sitka currently having home kits on hand for patients.

The federal government also offers sets of four free at-home COVID tests this winter and can be ordered online at https://www.covid.gov/tests

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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