Sitka long-term care resident tests positive for COVID-19

Today, SEARHC announced that they had detected the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Sitka, a Sitka Longterm Care resident. Pictured, Sitka’s drive-thru coronavirus testing clinic. (Photo courtesy KCAW/Berett Wilber)
SEARHC announced Saturday that they had detected the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Sitka, a long-term care resident. Pictured: Sitka’s drive-thru coronavirus testing clinic. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KCAW)

Sitka now has its first confirmed case of the coronavirus.

In a press release Saturday, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, a tribal health care provider, announced that the patient is a resident at the consortium’s 15-bed long-term care center. The state’s Department of Health and Social Services later confirmed that the Sitka patient is a male.

He was transferred to Mount Edgecumbe Medical Center, Sitka’s hospital. SEARHC is currently investigating the source of the virus, the organization said.

All residents of the facility, which houses senior citizens and others in need of long-term care, were tested.

“This confirmed case showcases the persistence of this virus and the ability for asymptomatic people to spread it within the community,” SEARHC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl said in a prepared statement.

Although Sitka now has joined a growing list of Alaska communities with confirmed cases of the virus, SEARHC has been taking preventative measures for weeks, cutting hospital visitation and screening all patients at the door.

More stringent measures have been in place at the long-term care center for the past two months, SEARHC said. No outside visitors are allowed — the facility has been using “virtual visitation” since March — and all staff are screened before entering.

Nursing homes and long-term care centers have been hit hard by COVID-19, and more than 10,000 residents have died nationwide, according to the Wall Street Journal.

SEARHC had administered 174 tests in Sitka through April 21, and is releasing weekly testing information. As of April 26, there have been 341 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state of Alaska.

This story has been updated to include the gender of the patient and the most recent case count for the state.

 

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