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Centennial Hall COVID-19 isolation facility has served 35 individuals

November 10, 2020 – News

The City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Operations Center opened Centennial Hall as a COVID-19 isolation facility in mid-October. It was in response to a cluster of cases associated with Juneau’s vulnerable/unsheltered population, which grew to include family members, friends, individuals who work for a social service organization, and those who live with someone who works for one of these agencies. At the time, the cluster size was 30. Within three weeks, it was 93. Since its opening, 35 people have gone through Centennial Hall, each person staying on average 11 nights.

Since the start of the pandemic, the EOC has been preparing to utilize Centennial Hall as an isolation facility in the case of a large COVID-19 outbreak among the homeless population. The goal of the facility is to help mitigate community spread, and to take pressure off the hospital system as well as homeless shelters and service providers during a surge in cases.

“The effort has been a success so far thanks to the partnership, innovation, and resourcefulness of so many Juneau agencies and organizations. We’ve been able to create a safe space, provide support and social opportunities for Juneau residents who’ve tested positive and don’t have a place to isolate in,” Scott Ciambor, EOC Quarantine & Isolation Task Force Leader, says.

Running the isolation facility is a collaboration between numerous community partners, including CBJ, Bartlett Regional Hospital, Capital City Fire/Rescue, Alaska Division of Public Health, The Glory Hall, United Way of Southeast Alaska, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium’s Front Street Clinic, St. Vincent de Paul of Juneau, AWARE, and other service providers.

Public Health and BRH have provided guidance on design and PPE protocols, and coordinated the referral, intake, and release process, along with community partners. Staffing has been a joint effort with BRH; CBJ has hired 17 emergency workers to fill in as site assistants to bolster site managers provided through BRH. CCFR moved the CARES program (sleep off) to Centennial Hall to allow additional trained staff on site 24/7.

The individuals who’ve gone through the facility do not have permanent housing and many have severe alcohol dependence. To counter the effects of alcohol withdrawal – which can cause severe complications, like seizures, when it occurs abruptly – CBJ, BRH, and CCFR developed a Managed Alcohol Program.

“I’m really proud of our partners for collaborating on and implementing this pragmatic harm reduction strategy. I firmly believe that this has helped reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community and has significantly reduced risk of harm to everyone involved,” Jeannette Lacey, BRH Hospital Incident Command System Patient Tracking Unit Leader, said.

The program, modeled after successful ones around the country, administers alcohol to individuals through a physician-approved protocol to prevent withdrawal. The intent is to mitigate the potentially severe risk of alcohol withdrawal, keep people from leaving isolation to self-manage withdrawal, and reduce withdrawal-related hospitalizations, which are often lengthy, costly, and puts providers at risk. Staff at Centennial Hall have detailed protocol for how to administer alcohol. They are supported by the CCFR Mobile Integrated Health unit with assessments and interventions for individuals in the program. Working with MIH, several individuals have received medication prescriptions instead of alcohol for the prevention of withdrawal.

As of November 10, five cases within the cluster were active and 88 have recovered. Three individuals are currently at Centennial Hall. The EOC continues to conduct regular testing every Friday at shelters around Juneau with results returning the middle of the following week.

For more information, contact EOC Quarantine & Isolation Task Force Leader Scott Ciambor at 586-0220 or Scott.Ciambor@juneau.org.