At-home test kits are available in Juneau at City Hall cash office, all Juneau public libraries, Juneau Public Health Center and the Juneau Police Department. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

At-home test kits are available in Juneau at City Hall cash office, all Juneau public libraries, Juneau Public Health Center and the Juneau Police Department. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

COVID cases are on the rise again

Allergies and flu also see uptick.

Yet another surge of COVID-19 is occurring in Juneau, although for some different reasons and with different uncertainties than previous spikes, according to local health officials.

“We’re seeing an increase in people coming into the emergency room with symptoms and we are seeing an increase in hospitalizations,” Bartlett Regional Hospital Infection Preventionist Charlee Gribbon said Monday. “We are seeing an increase in employees who are testing positive and show symptoms.”

There were 116 cases during the past week, equating a ratio of 365 cases per 100,000 residents — well in excess of the ratio of 200 where a higher alert status and possible reinstitution of restrictions may be considered, according to the State of Alaska’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard. Bartlett isn’t considering any such action yet since hospitalizations are also part of the equation, Gribbon said.

This screenshot displays COVID-19 rates in the City and Borough of Juneau over the past week. (Screenshot)

This screenshot displays COVID-19 rates in the City and Borough of Juneau over the past week. (Screenshot)

“To get into the red (zone) we would have to bump up the hospitalization rate” to the point providing care for all patients is at risk, she said.

But 15 local hospitalizations during the past week also exceeded the level where increasing the risk level would be sought. Gribbon said her inclination with the uptick is mandatory masking should resume and that might have been sought if hospital officials reacted quickly at the onset, but as of now the number of cases is below such a recommendation going forward.

“If we have a sustained level that stays that way then we would definitely be contacting the city,” she said.

On Monday there were three people hospitalized with COVID-19 — ages 19, 50 and 62 — two of whom were unvaccinated and one who has not yet received a booster shot, Gribbon said. Thirteen hospital employees exhibiting symptoms tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating at home, Gribbon said.

“At the height of omicron it was probably like 22 at its highest, but we averaged about 20,” she said.

A rate of 17 local infections per day for the week ending May 5 is a 31% increase from the average two weeks ago, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking dashboard. Since the beginning of the pandemic at least 25% of residents have been infected, a total of 8,622 reported cases.

Some residents might suspect the start of cruise tourism season as the main cause of the latest spike — and it is a factor — but as part of a larger overall post-pandemic mentality of many people, Gribbon said.

“It’s the relaxation of public health masking recommendations, and people feeling more comfortable with potentially getting infected and more mixing going on,” she said. “Tourists coming to town definitely increases the likelihood you’re going to be exposed to more people who aren’t wearing masks.”

Complicating matters is more people are relying on home COVID-19 tests and self-isolating if infected, without necessarily reporting their cases to officials, Gribbon said.

“Data in the U.S. is terrible because we can’t collect that information on home tests,” she said. “It’s really a voluntary system where people have to log in and say they took the test and why they took them.”

Also, while CDC guidelines say people can stop isolating after five days, half of the employees at Bartlett using antigen tests are testing positive and remain contagious five to six days after their initial diagnosis, Gribbon said.

Furthermore, while more people are feeling ill, it’s due to more than COVID-19. Gribbon said allergy season causes similar symptoms and there is a surge of local flu cases.

“It’s a choose-your-own-adventure with COVID and respiratory illness because you have to choose the level of protection you feel you need right now,” she said.

Many people think they’re immune or don’t need to take precautions because they’ve been exposed or infected to viruses the past two years, but such thinking and the assumption of being in a post-pandemic era is ill-advised, Gribbon said.

“We’re going to have a couple of bumpy years down the road where people who are vulnerable to COVID are going to die if they’re vulnerable,” she said.

As of Sunday COVID-19 PCR drive-thru testing is available at the Bartlett campus across from the emergency department entrance from 8:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. seven days a week. People must register for an appointment online or by calling the testing hotline at (907) 586-6000. Results will be available within 24 hours.

Free COVID-19 antigen home tests are available at the City Hall cash office, all Juneau public libraries, Juneau Public Health Center and the Juneau Police Department.

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of May 22, 2022

Here’s what to expect this week.

Heather Best (in water), a USGS hydrologist, prepares to toss a road-grader blade with a river-measuring device attached into the Yukon River near Eagle, Alaska. USGS hydrologic technician Liz Richards watches for icebergs. (Courtesy Photo / Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Wading into the icy Yukon River for science

EAGLE, ALASKA — Snow geese flew in a ragged V overhead, rasping… Continue reading

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, May 21, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Public defender Nicolas Ambrose gestures during a trial centered around a 2019 stabbing May 19, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Prosecution reconstructs events leading to fatal stabbing

Jurors watched multiple angles of the events leading and following the stabbing.

A sign marks the location of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Tourist dies near Mendenhall Glacier

The death is not considered suspicious.

Zuill Bailey performs a cello concert during a music cruise in Auke Bay on Saturday afternoon. (Courtesy Photo)
All that jazz returns to Juneau

Another ‘Classics’ in the books.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, May 20, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, May 19, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read