Bartlett Regional Hospital begins locally processing COVID-19 tests

Update | 6:06 p.m.

Bartlett Regional Hospital 2018 12 01
Bartlett Regional Hospital, pictured here on Dec. 1, 2018, is located at 3260 Hospital Drive in Juneau. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Hospital workers began processing COVID-19 tests locally in Juneau on Tuesday.

Emergency operations officials said the new testing lab at Bartlett Regional Hospital started small, with tests of people getting screened before medical procedures.

Emergency planning chief Robert Barr said after workflow kinks get smoothed out, the local lab will process the samples the city has been collecting at its fire training center.

“Which should be, knock on wood, within a week or so,” Barr said.

Then test samples won’t have to be shipped to an out-of-state lab. It’s expected to cut the turnaround time for results from two or three days to the same day or the next day.

Other recent COVID developments include that the city is giving people age 65 and up first dibs on appointments for the next mass vaccination clinic, scheduled for March 12 and 13. Juneau seniors can register early beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday through the city’s COVID hotline, 586-6000. City officials think 23% of Juneau’s seniors have not gotten the vaccine.

For everyone else eligible, registration will open at noon Thursday on the city’s website and through the hotline.

There has been a small spike in case numbers since the city lowered the community risk level and associated restrictions last week. Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said that’s just coincidence, the effect on case numbers wouldn’t be apparent this soon.

Among the cases in Juneau identified in the last two weeks, most of the spread was through secondary transmission. Meaning, health care workers figured out who spread it to whom.

“So you know, if we’ve got a lot of secondary transmission, and we know people are quarantining, we’re not as concerned as we might be with even a fewer number of cases where it’s community spread and we have no idea how those people got sick, and they don’t appear to be connected at all. That’s of more concern to us,” Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove said the spikes also correspond to large family groups getting tested in batches.

In regional COVID news, except for Juneau, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium is opening up COVID-19 vaccinations to the general public.

SEARHC made the announcement Tuesday. To be considered for future appointments, sign up at covid19.searhc.org. You must have a valid email address.

In Juneau, SEARHC is making the vaccine available to its beneficiaries and existing patients.

There are no out-of-pocket charges.

Original post | 3:15 p.m.

Juneau city officials are holding their weekly COVID-19 community update at 4 p.m. Tuesday over video conference. You can watch on this post, through the City and Borough of Juneau’s Facebook page or on Zoom.

Members of the city’s emergency operations center will provide information about the local COVID-19 response and answer questions. Community members can submit questions in advance to via email.

Recent developments include that the city is giving people age 65 and up first dibs on appointments for the next mass vaccination clinic, scheduled for March 12 and 13. Juneau seniors can register early beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday through the city’s COVID hotline, 586-6000. City officials think 23% of Juneau’s seniors have not gotten the vaccine.

For everyone else eligible, registration will open at noon Thursday on the city’s website and through the hotline.

As of Tuesday afternoon, city officials know of 23 residents and one non-resident in Juneau with active cases. No new cases were identified today.

Among the cases in Juneau identified over last two weeks, Deputy City Manager wrote in Monday’s emergency operations report that much of the spread happened among “large family groups.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated at what time Juneau seniors can begin registering early for vaccine appointments. It’s 9 a.m. Wednesday, not 8 a.m.