Update — Wednesday, July 21, 12:07 p.m.
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Juneau is the highest its been since December 2020.
State epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin says there are two main reasons for the increase in cases: the delta variant and the city being opened up.
The delta variant is 40-60% more transmissible. Combine that with more businesses being open and people going out, it is leading to an increase in cases throughout the region.
“So it’s really important that Alaskans recognize that this pandemic now is being driven by unvaccinated people,” McLaughlin said. He and several other state health officials sat in on Juneau’s community COVID-19 update on Tuesday.
On Monday, Juneau asked residents to wear a mask indoors — even if they are vaccinated. Masks are also required in city buildings again.
City health officials say it’s a precaution because of the increase in local case numbers.
McLaughlin encourages people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 to consider wearing masks.
“So especially folks who are high risk, maybe they’ve got a lot of underlying medical conditions or they’re elderly, you know, especially with this delta variant really taking a strong foothold in Alaska, it’s probably wise for them to consider adding on some additional layers of protection,” he said.
City health officials want to avoid an outbreak similar to one happening now in Sitka. By Tuesday evening, there were 208 active cases in that community.
Juneau’s Emergency Operations Center head Mila Cosgrove, said there are four ways the city recommends tackling the city’s rising case counts.
The first is to get vaccinated if you aren’t already. Cosgrove says wearing masks inside, social distancing and getting tested are three other things community members can do.
Regarding testing, the city health officials want anyone who has symptoms — vaccinated or not — to get a COVID-19 test.
Coleman Cutchins, a clinical pharmacist with the state health department says testing is important for individuals and for the state’s virus response.
“Testing is still the best way that we know, you know, how much Covid is circulating in the community,” he said.
To get tested, you can call 586-6000. And to sign up for a vaccine, you can visit juneau.org/covid-19.
As city officials respond to an upswing in COVID-19 cases locally, and surges in nearby communities, they plan to give an update on their response at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
City officials reported 24 new cases over the weekend, they’ve asked residents to mask up again indoors — whether or not they’re vaccinated. And while it’s an ask — not a mandate in most public spaces like grocery stories, restaurants and bars — they will be requiring masks in City and Borough of Juneau facilities.
“None of us want to see case activity grow. And none of us want to see requirements in place,” he said. “We really do need people to help out and help us get our current situation under control so that we don’t get there. I’m concerned that we might.”
Local and state health officials say these higher case counts are driven, in part, by the delta variant of the coronavirus. It is known to be highly transmissible. Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said on social media that the rise in new infections in Alaska mirrors what’s happening nationwide.
The US has seen a 70% increase in cases of COVID-19 in the last 7 days and a 36% increase in hospitalizations. Alaska is seeing similar trends with a rapid rise in the delta variant. As cases spread, we are all choosing between vaccination and COVID-19, except our children. 1/5
— Anne Zink (@annezinkmd) July 20, 2021
The borough continues to recommend that anyone with symptoms — vaccinated or not — get tested. It also urges unvaccinated folks who have traveled — especially to Sitka, Anchorage or the Kenai Peninsula — to be tested as well.
City officials will provide detailed information and guidance during the update. You can stream it in this post, participate online, call 1-253-215-8782 with webinar ID 985 6308 5159, or watch on Facebook Live.