There are no COVID-19 cases at the Juneau Pioneer Home among either staff or residents, the home’s administrator Gina Del Rosario said Wednesday. Staff are tested weekly and residents monthly, Del Rosario said in a phone interview. The latest round of staff testing was finished Tuesday and those results are expected by the end of the week, she said.
The Fairbanks Pioneer Home confirmed 28 new COVID-19 cases since Sept. 21, the Department of Health and Social Services said in a news release Tuesday, with nine residents and 19 staff members testing positive. Positive cases were confirmed at the Anchorage Pioneer Home in August, but DHSS said in the release it had been more than two weeks since a staff member had tested positive there.
So far, the Juneau home has reported no cases.
“So, and I’m praying it continues, all tests (have been) negative. There’s zero COVID cases in the Juneau Pioneer Home,” Del Rosario said.
Staff and family have been instructed in infection control, particularly limiting their social circle, to lower the risk of potential exposure. That’s something the home is vigilant about, Del Rosario said, and have spent a lot of time trying to educate staff and family about those precautions. Fortunately, she said, JPH staff have shown a strong commitment to infection control even outside of work.
Staff had previously been tested every two weeks, she said, but they switched to every week two months ago. Vigilance was key in keeping the home safe for face-to-face visits with family members, which while always important for the mental health of residents and their families, are more essential now as the days get darker and the holiday season begins, she said.
Normally the home would have celebrations and other events for holidays, but Del Rosario isn’t sure what that’s going to look like this year. Face-to-face visits are tied to the City and Borough of Juneau’s community transmission level, she said. If the city raises the communitywide risk level to high, in-person visits are canceled.
“We will continue to do it this way until COVID is completely out of the picture in Juneau,” she said. “I don’t know when that new normal will be. It’s important we be vigilant. I’m very thankful for the staff, to have that commitment outside of work.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention older adults and people with medical conditions are at increased risk from the coronavirus and should take extra precautions. Residents of Alaska’s Pioneer Homes service are both older adults and have underlying conditions.
The state’s 14-day epidemic curve, which is used to gauge the spread of the virus in the state, was at an all-time high Wednesday, according to DHSS at 17 cases per 100,000 people. A case rate above 10 is considered high by DHSS, and the state’s average has been at 10 or higher since September. Juneau’s average case rate Wednesday was 7, according to DHSS, which show Juneau’s numbers trending down.
“We’re seeing very high numbers of cases in many communities across the state. And as we see in Fairbanks, this can increase the risk to some of our most vulnerable citizens, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink in a news release. “I’m urging Alaskans to stop and re-evaluate their routines and behaviors when outside of their home. The simple actions of wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and keeping your social circle small help to reduce community spread of COVID-19. Now is not the time to be complacent about what can be a very dangerous illness, especially as we move indoors more as winter approaches.”
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.