Statement from CBJ’s Emergency Program Manager on COVID-19 preparations

February 28, 2020 – News

As the City and Borough of Juneau prepares for the COVID-19 outbreak, we wanted to briefly explain our process, and remind the community and our partners of a few important things:

Regardless of the event – whether it’s the coronavirus, a catastrophic earthquake, or other disruptive event – the concept of Continuity of Operations is important. Continuity of Operations is an effort within an organization, business, or agency to ensure essential functions continue to be performed during a wide range of emergencies. There are several things to consider: What are your agency’s essential functions? How do you ensure those services are continually met with a loss of staffing, supplies, or even facilities? What’s your fallback? Which services will you continue to provide and which may have to be temporarily suspended? Are there other agencies to fill those gaps or mutual aid resources that could provide for you short or long term?

Organizations should also consider simple social distancing. Do you need to be at your office cubicle or can you work from home? If you do have to work in an office or with the public, try to create a safe space. Consider holding meetings through various online platforms. Create more distance between yourself and your customers.

Since COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets, it’s important to have protocols in place to minimize the spread of the disease. These protocols are similar for the simple cold or the seasonal flu, which kills tens of thousands in the U.S. annually. Post reminders in bathrooms about hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough, and keeping surfaces clean and wiped down to kill lingering germs. Consider additional janitorial services for your organization to wipe things down 2-3 times more often. The investment could potentially pay off.

This is a cold virus; it attacks the most vulnerable members of our society so it’s especially important for vulnerable populations to follow a few basic steps, though all of us can do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu: Get your flu shot, wash your hands, and stay at home if you are sick. Your health could affect other people. Stay strong to fight bacteria and germs.

CBJ is doing a number of things internally and externally to prepare. At the February Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting, the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS) presented on the virus to our community partners. The Port Security Committee began discussions and reviews of federal plans for vessels. The U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port recently briefed the Docks & Harbors Board on CDC Cruise Ship Protocols, and discussions regarding quarantine and isolation are ongoing. Last week, the Juneau Assembly heard a presentation on pandemic preparedness by DHSS and CBJ Emergency Programs. An upcoming emergency preparedness exercise is being planned with Bartlett Regional Hospital, CBJ Emergency Programs, Capital City Fire/Rescue, DHSS, Red Cross, Juneau Police Department, Coast Guard, and other partners.

As the capital city, Juneau has a great deal of resources. We have the largest hospital in the region with the ability to support infectious disease quarantine and isolation. Through federal grants over the years, CBJ has built tremendous response capability. We have seven mass casualty quarantine and isolation systems in Southeast. One of these units is located here in Juneau. The majority of the people dying from this respiratory disease are perishing from a lack of oxygen where resources are scarce. As part of our mass casualty supplies, each one of our quarantine centers has the capability to provide oxygen to every bed.

As the stages of this disease continue to progress, CBJ will stay in touch with our response partners to maintain common messaging and do our best to promote and support a continued healthy community.

Thanks for doing your part by covering your mouth when you cough, washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick, social distancing when necessary, wiping down surfaces on a regular basis, and revisiting your Continuity of Operations plans to insure our community stays on track.

– Tom Mattice, CBJ Emergency Programs Manager

For more information, contact Emergency Program Manager Tom Mattice at 586-0419 or Tom.Mattice@juneau.org.