Petersburg outbreak leads to short staffing at hospital, schools and borough

The front entrance at the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School which switched to online learning this week (Angela Denning/KFSK)

Petersburg’s latest outbreak of COVID-19, its worst since the start of the pandemic, has meant staffing shortages at the hospital, local schools and multiple borough departments this month.

Petersburg Medical Center reported 16 new cases Monday night, bringing the active case count in the community to 63. PMC says the spread of the virus is not decreasing and asks residents to follow mitigation measures.

The hospital remains in red status and is experiencing staff shortages, which means some patients’ appointments may be rescheduled.

Meanwhile, students at Rae C. Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg have switched to remote online learning for the rest of this week after cases impacted staff.

That’s despite a drop in overall active case numbers in the school district Monday. That count dipped was at 3o on Monday afternoon, down from 37 last week. Another 32 students and staff are in quarantine. Officials says cases and possible exposures have mostly happened outside of the school setting.

The school district says multiple staffing issues will require the remote learning in the lower grades.

For the moment, classes remain in person for middle and high schools. However, superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter says that could change based on cases and their connections to staff and students.

The district has announced two additional vacation days for students next week, Monday and Tuesday. That will mean a full week out of the school buildings for students in the upper grades because of the Thanksgiving holiday, and nearly two weeks in preschool through fifth grades.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht is reporting to the assembly this week that multiple borough departments are short of workers because of the outbreak, including the police department, dispatchers, public works, motor pool and parks and recreation.

The borough allowed the Viking Swim Club back into the swimming pool last week and restarted some morning swims for others this week. Otherwise, borough buildings have been closed to the public since Nov. 3.

Other Southeast communities are also seeing spikes, with COVID-19 numbers up in both Wrangell and Ketchikan.

The number for Petersburg’s COVID-19 information line is 907-772-5788.

KFSK - Petersburg

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