A chart shows COVID-19 pathogen levels at the Mendenhall wastewater treatment plant during the past three months. (Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Wastewater Surveillance System)

A chart shows COVID-19 pathogen levels at the Mendenhall wastewater treatment plant during the past three months. (Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Wastewater Surveillance System)

Juneau seeing another increase in COVID-19 cases, but a scarcity of self-test kits

SEARHC, Juneau Drug have limited kits; other locations expect more by Saturday.

This story has been updated with additional information about free COVID-19 test kits being available at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé.

Another increase in COVID-19 cases and temporary scarcity of self-test kits are occurring at the same time in Juneau, according to officials.

The rise in Juneau cases tracks with a statewide increase, with 47 cases reported statewide for the week of May 18, 86 the week of May 25 and 172 the week of June 1, according to the Alaska Department of Health. However, those totals are far below the last major surge in January that peaked at more than 700 cases a week for four weeks in a row.

Flu cases, which spiked during the spring, have been at a somewhat lower level during the past few weeks while Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases have largely vanished, according to the state’s dashboard.

Bartlett Regional Hospital is reporting an increase in COVID-19 positive patients, residents and staff, “particularly in our long-term care facility, Wildflower Court (WFC),” Erin Hardin, a Bartlett spokesperson, stated in an email Thursday.

“WFC experienced a COVID outbreak in late May that peaked in early June with 11 residents testing positive alongside 9 WFC staff,” she wrote. “As of today, that outbreak is controlled, and we only have 1 active case in the facility that is unrelated to in-house transmission. We are currently requiring masking in the facility. In the hospital, we have 3 people currently hospitalized with COVID and this has been the trend for the last month.”

COVID-19 pathogen levels at the Mendenhall wastewater treatment plant also increased significantly between May 2 and June 6, after remaining relatively low since late March, according to a tracking site for the facility.

The increase is occurring during the peak of the summer cruise ship season, as well as during the four-day Celebration involving thousands of people last week.

At the same time, self-test kits are scarce at Juneau’s pharmacies and stores.

A spot check of local pharmacies Thursday for COVID-19 self-test kits indicated all were out or low in supply. SEARHC’s Ethel Lund Medical Center was providing up to two kits free of charge to current patients, although there were none at the organization’s Vintage Park Campus. Juneau Drug reported getting some kits on Thursday, while the pharmacies at Safeway and Fred Meyer said they expected more kits to replace their depleted inventories on Saturday.

Also, free self-test kits are available between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, according to Kristin Bartlett, chief of staff for the Juneau School District.

“We have been getting phone calls from folks looking for them, a handful a week,” said Alison Gottschlich, nurse manager of the Juneau Public Health Center. She said the federal government stopped providing free COVID-19 tests in March.

“So our recommendation is that if people are symptomatic obviously please stay home and away from others until your symptoms are improving and your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours,” she said. “And if they’re feeling quite ill see their physician or their health care provider, and they can get testing and get medications going if needed.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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