For now, there will continue to be no limitations on the number of people who can gather in public settings on Kodiak even as COVID numbers continue to be closely monitored. The Emergency Services Council made this decision on Thursday, saying they will consider the topic when they meet again on Sept. 9.
As of Thursday, there were 108 known active cases of COVID on the island with no patients hospitalized at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center. There have been two reported deaths this week of Kodiak residents who had COVID or COVID-related symptoms, but the time of death for one of those people was not known by Kodiak Daily Mirror.
While deciding not to limit gatherings, the Emergency Services Council did outline other measures in place at its Thursday meeting to combat the spread of COVID and keep kids in school.
A mask mandate requires people to wear face coverings indoors, with a few exceptions. The rate of COVID spread has decreased slightly since the mask mandate was put in place last week. Members of the Emergency Services Council hope this mandate will eliminate any need to restrict gatherings in businesses, schools or places of worship.
The Kodiak Island Borough School District will be testing 10-15% of the student body and half of the staff every week, according to the Superintendent Larry LeDoux. KIBSD has set up a vaccine clinic and already has administered a first dose to 25 students and two adults, LeDoux said.
One of the biggest concerns addressed by the Emergency Services Council at Thursday’s meeting was the limited resources for treating COVID patients off the island. Anchorage hospitals are near capacity, according to Anne Zink, chief medical officer for the state of Alaska.
Last week, when someone needed to be medevaced off the island, it took the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center three days to find a hospital in the Lower 48 that could accept the patient. Those limited resources impact more than just COVID patients — health-care systems from Anchorage to San Francisco are overwhelmed and having difficulty treating people with any sickness or injury.
Last October, when Kodiak had more than 30 COVID cases in a week for the first time, the Emergency Services Council issued its first mandate that prohibited gatherings of 20 or more people in places where there was not enough space to socially distance. This week, there have been more than 50 new known COVID cases diagnosed on the island. Because of the risk level that Kodiak is currently at, the Emergency Services Council is recommending — but not requiring — that businesses limit the number of people within an indoor space.
And across the state, the push to vaccinate continues. Currently, only 61% of Alaskans age 12 and over have had at least their first vaccine dose, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services.
But the Alaska Chamber is trying to change that by offering Alaskans the shot at some cash or prizes for those who already are or are willing to get vaccinated. The chamber will be giving away more than $950,000 in cash and prizes during 18 drawings to be held weekly between Sept. 16 and Oct. 30. Go here for more information: https://www.giveakashot.com/prizes-schedule/
“Our kids 12 and under at this time cannot be immunized, therefore it really takes a community to keep the schools open,” Zink said.
During an update from the Kodiak Area Emergency Services Organization later in the day, Borough Mayor Bill Roberts talked about how happy he was to send his granddaughter off to her first day of first grade earlier that morning. Last year, he recalled, she had to learn remotely from home. Roberts hopes that she can continue to have in-person instruction throughout this school year.
“Our priority is keeping kids safe and keeping them in school,” said City of Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson earlier that day, when the Emergency Services Council met.