Kodiak reported another case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the latest in an uptick in cases during the past two weeks that has mostly affected the Coast Guard Base but has also included several community members.
The new case is a Kodiak resident whose contraction of the virus is under investigation, according to the Kodiak Area Emergency Services Organization. It brings the island’s total cases to 95, with 12 considered active.
The recent outbreak has resulted in more requests for tests by community members, said Kodiak Public Health Nurse Bonny Weed.
Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center reported that as of Monday, they had conducted 1,464 tests since the beginning of the pandemic, with more than 32 done over the weekend, while Kodiak Community Health Center reported a total of 1,528 tests. One hundred of those were conducted last week.
As of Friday, Kodiak had conducted 13,091 tests, with 10,016 of those done by the Kodiak Area Native Association.
Weed said the test numbers do not necessarily reflect how many people have been tested because they do not take into account people who have been tested numerous times.
She said some people who had recovered from COVID-19 tested positive multiple times after their recovery, even though they were considered noninfectious.
“I know of a few positive people who had had persistent positives even though they were considered noninfectious,” Weed said, adding that some rapid tests that look for pieces of COVID-19 molecules cannot tell a dead molecule from a live one.
This has meant that a few fishermen were not able to go out to fish because, although they were recovered, their tests came back positive and they were not allowed on their boats.
“They were considered recovered and had no symptoms. It took a while to clear. There were maybe two or three out of the 94 positives,” Weed said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers someone to be non-infectious if they have not experienced symptoms for 10 days and have spent 24 hours without a fever.
Meanwhile, Alaska’s Public Health Disaster Emergency Declaration for COVID-19 is scheduled to expire on Nov. 15. Kodiak Area Emergency Services Organization Director Mike Tvenge said that if the emergency declaration is not extended, the biggest concern would be funding the emergency response while the pandemic is ongoing.
Kodiak Island Borough Manager Michael Powers said the state notified local governments that they would no longer help provide testing supplies beginning Jan. 1 because manufacturers have caught up with demand.
Powers said that during the past six months, testing supplies became difficult to find in the market.
“The state and the federal governments are usually sources of last resort,” Powers said. “Normally, you would try to go out in the market to get the things you need. In this case, you couldn't get enough tests, and it became unwieldy to try to find the market.”
The borough will address this issue at a meeting on Thursday and speak about appropriating $400,000 to provide enough test supplies for 9,750 people.
Tvenge said that of the five health mandates still in effect, the travel mandate — which requires nonresidents to either test in Anchorage or arrive with a negative test result — has been most effective at mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
If the mandate is allowed to expire, Kodiak will not be able to require testing for non-residents upon arrival because the Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport is owned by the state, Tvenge said.
But the impacts of allowing the health mandates to expire remain up in the air. Tvenge said the EOC will “wait and see.”
However, he reiterated that the local government will continue the mitigation efforts that have been put in place in recent months, such as the implementation of harbor use agreements and business mitigation plans, as well as the island’s “robust” testing capacity.
He said community efforts among businesses and seafood processors to keep COVID-19 out of the workplace, the school district’s mitigation measures, and “dedicated medical community and local support teams offering assistance to those in need” will also help keep the island safe.
“This community is united and we are all the better because of that,” Tvenge wrote in an email. “Kodiak has a strong-willed, dedicated population that will do what it takes to protect ourselves from this virus.”