No cruises till July at the earliest mean these tourist-targeted shops downtown will likely remain shuttered for months longer, March 20, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

No cruises till July at the earliest mean these tourist-targeted shops downtown will likely remain shuttered for months longer, March 20, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Juneau asked to hunker down as second case confirmed

Unselfish isolation will save lives and resources, officials urge

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly passed a resolution Monday night asking people to stay home as much as possible, with few exceptions.

“There’s a lot of nuance and detail, but the takeaway is the Juneau Assembly is asking the people of Juneau to refrain from nonessential activity and focus on the essentials,” said Assembly member Greg Smith in a phone interview. “We’re trying to slow the spread so that we protect the people at the Bartlett (Regional) Hospital who are protecting us from COVID-19 and other medical conditions.”

[Juneau has first coronavirus case, prepares screening service]

People working in critical jobs, buying or selling groceries, receiving or providing health-care or getting exercise in the fresh air are exceptions from the resolution so long as people are practicing social distancing.

“The purpose of our hunker-down is avoiding as much contact with each other as possible,” said Mayor Beth Weldon. “The more people take care of themselves, the more we flatten the curve.”

The resolution comes among a number of other measures to decentralize testing and treatment options to keep medical facilities from being overwhelmed through hard choices, Smith said.

“We can see what’s happening in Italy, in New York City, in Washington state. They’re in lockdown too, but they’re having crazy health tragedies in their hospitals,” Smith said. “We want to prevent those health tragedies, but unfortunately locking everything down is the way to do it.”

Smith said the deleterious effects on the economy are galling, but unavoidable if the priority is human life, encouraging those to seek assistance from the state in the form of unemployment insurance or small business loans for workers and for owners. .

“Everyone in the Assembly, our hearts go out to workers and business owners,” Smith said. “Something this big, there are already and there will be more help directed towards reducing the financial pain that a lot of people are and will be feeling.”

The sacrifices we make now will save lives and resources down the line, Smith said.

“We’re trying to buy ourselves time so we can get more testing, get more personal protective equipment, learn more about the virus,” Smith said. “We just really ask people to be like: this is so important, this is so serious. We have got to think about our Bartlett people. They’re our warriors, fighting against the coronavirus, against COVID-19.”

New cases, new capabilities

As CBJ announces its second confirmed COVID-19 patient, Juneau is looking to rapidly expand its capabilities to diagnose, treat, and support its neighboring communities, Weldon said.

The newest patient is being treated in the critical care unit at BRH, said a press release from CBJ. The unidentified person had traveled to the Lower 48, including Portland and Washington state, which the Department of Health and Social Services believe is the source of their infection, according to CBJ.

DHSS is relaxing medical privacy regulations in order to interview people the victim may have been in contact with, according to CBJ.

Capital City Fire/Rescue has also set up a hotline at 586-6000 for those concerned that they’ve contacted the coronavirus. School nurses manning the phone lines will take concerned citizens through a survey, and if they meet the criteria, they’ll make an appointment to get tested at CCFR’s own testing site at the Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center.

Juneau will hopefully have the ability to process its own tests by mid-April, Weldon said.

This capability will reduce turnaround time for testing from days to a matter of hours. Weldon said the city is also considering offering to take casualties from communities that do not have the facilities to handle them in the months to come.

“Since we’re a regional hub, I’m sure we’ll reach out to other communities to help out,” Weldon said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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