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With highly transmissible Delta variant, it’s not time to let our guard down

August 20, 2021 – News

The City and Borough of Juneau held a press conference Friday, August 20, at 9 a.m. to talk about the community’s COVID-19 risk level elevating to High. CBJ Emergency Operations Center Incident Commander Mila Cosgrove and Bartlett Regional Hospital CEO Rose Lawhorne offered the following prepared statements.

CBJ Emergency Operations Center Incident Commander Mila Cosgrove: The Unified Command of the City and Borough of Juneau COVID Emergency Operations Center wants to send a clear and direct message to the community. COVID cases are escalating and our community response capacity is beginning to feel the strain. We need the community to pull together and act in unison to interrupt the current cycle of case positivity.

To date, Juneau has done very well in responding to the threat of COVID-19. We want to thank the community for stepping up to get vaccinated and for working together to get this far. Our goal is to protect public health by mitigating COVID, keep our schools open so children can learn in person and parents can work, and to keep our businesses open to provide economic stability to the community. We are in a delicate place of balancing these three, sometimes competing, goals. But we are confident that, as a community, if we act together, we can continue to rise to the challenge.

The Delta variant, now the dominate strain of COVID in our community, is highly transmissible. In the last 14 days Juneau has had 279 new COVID positive cases identified. Our average number of cases per day has more than doubled since July and continues to rise. Despite increased testing numbers, our 7-day rolling test positivity rate is 6% leading us to believe that there are many undetected COVID cases in the community. In the past 14 days we have had three deaths at BRH and there are other, very seriously ill COVID patients who are hospitalized.

The Delta variant also results in a higher level of vaccine breakthrough cases. While it is true that individuals who are fully vaccinated can contract COVID they do so at a much lower rate than unvaccinated individuals and when fully vaccinated individuals become COVID positive, they are less likely to require hospitalization or die as a result of the illness.

Bartlett Regional Hospital CEO Rose Lawhorne: The surge of COVID-19 infections is concerning. We are seeing increased deaths and serious illness related to this infection, particularly in the unvaccinated population. Staffing and hospital bed availability is limited across the state and the Pacific Northwest, restricting our ability to transfer the very sickest patients out of Juneau. Our Incident Command Team continues to procure resources to care for patients, but supply chains are again limited. We acknowledge the economic impact and fatigue associated with mitigation measures, but we need all of you to help us get this surge under control. Together, we can make a difference. I urge each of you to renew your commitment to safe practices, masking, social distancing, and protecting our community from ongoing spread. Get tested if you are exposed or have symptoms, and isolate if you become positive. And please, get vaccinated.

CBJ Emergency Operations Center Incident Commander Mila Cosgrove: The following community mitigation measures are effective as of 5 p.m. Friday, August 20:

  • Masks must continue to be worn in all public indoor areas. Masks must be worn in public outdoor areas where 6 feet of distancing cannot be maintained. Keep your social bubble contained to family members.
  • Indoor gatherings should be limited to 20 people with masks required; no size limit if all individuals are fully vaccinated. Six-feet distancing recommended for outdoor gatherings.
  • Bars and restaurants must not exceed 50% indoor capacity, maintain 6 feet distance between patrons, maintain a patron list, and close at 11 p.m.
  • Personal services must be by appointment only; no waiting areas.
  • Gyms must not exceed 50% capacity; no group activities; limit indoor classes to fully vaccinated individuals only.
  • Travelers arriving in Juneau should follow State of Alaska health advisories.

Effective Monday, the community will begin to see some modifications to CBJ services. As you likely know, we require masking in our offices and facilities. We believe we have a COVID safe environment for staff and the public. However, will be adjusting services, most likely in the Library and Parks & Recreation Departments, so we can reassign staff to emergency operations response.

We recognize that everyone is tired of COVID. We are too. But being tired of something doesn’t make it go away. It is not time to let our guard down. As a community, we need to remember that we are still very much in a pandemic and adjust our behavior accordingly. We need to support our families, friends and neighbors who are on the front lines of COVID response, and to protect all community members from sickness and adverse economic impact.

We are asking you to do the following:

  • Get vaccinated and if you have not yet completed your vaccine cycle, get your 2nd shot. The best analogy I’ve heard for vaccines is getting vaccinated is like putting on a raincoat. Raincoats work great at protecting you from most wet weather, but they won’t keep you completely dry in a heavy, windy downpour. Vaccines are your COVID raincoat – dress for the weather you find yourself in.As of yesterday, 82.5% of the age eligible population in Juneau had at least a single dose of vaccine and 66.6% of the entire population is fully vaccinated. Great job Juneau! Let’s keep those numbers going up.Full FDA authorization for COVID vaccines appears to be imminent – we are expecting to hear that news in early September.If you are immunocompromised and eligible for a 3rd shot, those are available at Juneau Urgent Care, Capstone Clinic at the airport, Genoa Health Clinic, and Juneau Public Health.

    Booster shots will be available beginning September 20th. You need to be 8 months past your second dose. We will be organizing public clinics to immunize as many people as possible.

    Children, ages 5 – 11, will likely be authorized for vaccine in November.

    You can go to juneau.org/vaccine. That will take you to a list of all public and private vaccination sites in Juneau.

  • Wear a mask if you are indoors in any public space. Masking is the most effective strategy you can use to avoid COVID transmission when around other people.  Mask up if you are out of your home and enter a public area where there are others around you.  This includes stores, restaurants, city facilities, work spaces, churches, and other gathering places.
  • Keep your social bubble small. The fewer people you spend time around, the less exposure you have and the more likely it is that you will be able to recall who you’ve been around if you do test positive. It’s a simple test. Think back to where you’ve been and who you’ve interacted with for more than 15 minutes in the last 48 hours. If you can’t remember, you should consider pulling back just a little.
  • Make sure you test:
    • If you are at all symptomatic regardless of vaccination status.
    • If you’ve been exposed to a COVID positive individual you should test 5 days after exposure regardless of vaccination status.
    • If you are unvaccinated and you work with children or youth under the age of 12.
    • If you work in the hospitality industry where you are exposed to others in an indoor space when they are unmasked.
  • If you test positive, please contact public health at 465-3353 and notify anyone that you’ve been in close contact with in the last 48 hours. Close contact is anyone who you’ve been around, masked or unmasked for a cumulative period of 15 minutes or more.

In closing, I’d like to remind the press and public that you can find up-to-date information on the CBJ website at juneau.org/covid19. You can register for testing, find out more about vaccines, read our Emergency Operations reports that are published on Monday and Thursday, and get up to date case data on our dashboard.

The City and the Hospital are hiring to help support emergency and regular operations. You can find out information about job openings on our respective webpages.

With that, we’d like to open up the floor to the press.