Ketchikan Public Health Center will stop providing local COVID updates

A view of downtown Ketchikan, seen from the cruise ship Veendam. (Photo by Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

Health officials in Ketchikan say they will stop providing local COVID-19 updates next month. On Feb. 1, nurses at Ketchikan Public Health Center say they’ll stop updating the dashboard page on the borough’s website that provides the number of new cases, active cases and other COVID-19 statistics.

Ketchikan Public Health Center nurses have been updating the site since last summer. They took over for Ketchikan’s emergency operations center, which had provided COVID-19 updates since the beginning of the pandemic.

But lead public health nurse Jen Bergen says updating the local dashboard is eating up staff time.

“Nursing time needs to focus on Covid response efforts including vaccination, consultation with community partners, and high priority non-COVID work,” Bergen said in an email to reporters.

Residents will still be able to track local hospitalizations on a webpage updated by PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center. But for other COVID-19 data, people will instead be directed to a statewide dashboard.

a screenshot of Ketchikan's covid data dashboard
A screenshot of Ketchikan Public Health’s dashboard as of Jan. 12. (Screenshot by KRBD)

“The State dashboard remains a very helpful tool and includes weekly and monthly reports that provide additional information about COVID in Alaska, including information on vaccine breakthrough cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” Bergen said.

It’s part of a larger trend toward providing less detailed information about the pandemic to the public.

Health officials on Prince of Wales Island have stopped posting graphics with COVID-19 statistics to social media and are now updating a hotline with case information just once a week.

State health authorities said last week they’re phasing out most contact tracing except in some high-risk scenarios. Southeast Alaska’s top public health nurse told reporters that the omicron variant was moving too fast for contact investigations to provide useful results in many cases.

The state dashboard is available at data.coronavirus.alaska.gov.

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