Juneau officials: COVID-19 cases locally and statewide are straining contact tracing

Updated | 5:33 p.m.

Juneau city officials identified 14 new cases of COVID-19 by Tuesday and asked the public to take more proactive steps to help health workers trace contacts.

Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove went over some of the city’s latest numbers during a weekly COVID-19 update.

“So you can see our trend line is moving in the wrong direction,” she said. “That’s a fairly steep increase. We’d like to see that come back down.”

There are 91 active cases, including 22 people from a cluster of infections reported among Juneau’s homeless population.

The trend is bad statewide, too. It’s straining the state Division of Public Health’s ability to trace contacts, which is critical to limit the disease’s spread.

“Because there are a high number of cases locally and there are a high number of cases statewide, Public Health is doing a fabulous job of really trying to manage it. But they’re a little bit overwhelmed,” she said.

Cosgrove asked the public to take some steps to help out. She said if you test positive through a private health care provider, there’s lag time before that information reaches local contact tracers. So, you should call the local Public Health office directly at 465-3353.

Cosgrove said you should also reach out to your close contacts directly. If you are a close contact, isolate as if you’ve tested positive.

She said the data from tests done by Capital City Fire/Rescue at the airport and its drive-thru facility are shared directly with contact tracers.

Finally, Cosgrove encouraged everyone to try a contact tracing exercise themselves.

“Think back about all the people you’ve been in touch with,” she said. “Hopefully, that’s a very small group of people. So if you’re keeping your social bubble small, that should be a fairly easy exercise. And I would encourage everybody who’s listening to think about that and go through the exercise right now: If you were to test positive, what would that look like for you?”

If it’s hard, your social bubble is probably too big.

Local emergency officials raised alert levels last week based on rising case counts and infection rates. With it, came some forced closures and capacity limits. Emergency officials say hospital capacity is stable.

More local information about the state of the pandemic in Juneau is available on the city’s COVID-19 website.

Original post

Juneau city officials are holding their weekly COVID-19 community update at 4 p.m. today over video conference. You can watch on Zoom, or listen by phone.

According to the city’s COVID-19 website 14 new cases were identified in Juneau today. Emergency officials raised alert levels last Tuesday based on rising case counts and infection rates. With it, came some forced closures and capacity limits. Emergency officials say hospital capacity is stable, but that the number of cases is limiting contract tracing.

Juneau’s spike in cases is driven, in part, by a cluster of infections reported among Juneau’s homeless population.

So far, 77 people who are either homeless, who work for social service organizations that serve them, or who are family members, friends or roommates with someone who works in that field have tested positive for the virus.

Bartlett Regional Hospital reported Monday that they’re treating three people with COVID-19.

The new cases in Juneau are among 378 new cases of COVID-19 infections identified among Alaskans and non-residents who are in the state.

The majority of the new cases that state health officials reported on Tuesday are in Anchorage. But there are also hotspots in Fairbanks, Wasilla, Utqiagvik, Chevak and Kenai.

State hospitals are reporting that 81 people who have tested positive for the virus, or who are waiting on results are currently being treated. The state is also reporting that hospitals in Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough are nearing their inpatient bed capacity. And Anchorage is nearing its ICU bed capacity. However, those are not all patients being treated for COVID-19 and those numbers tend to fluctuate daily.