From the publisher

It’s time to get COVID under control

Forget politics, rumors, social media, accusations from all sides and everything else that has turned the vaccination debate into a circus — but without the fun, excitement and cotton candy.

Too many Alaskans are getting sick (about 5,800 cases the past two weeks), too many are ending up in the hospital (121 in beds as of Tuesday), and too many are dying (419 since the start of the pandemic count, as of Tuesday).

Though about two-thirds of the deaths have been recorded in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Southeast Alaska communities are part of the sad tally, too.

Five residents of the Pioneer Home in Ketchikan who tested positive for COVID-19 died this month. Just in one week, a dozen

residents of the 45-bed care home and five

staff members tested positive, the state reported.

Three COVID-related deaths have been reported this month at Juneau’s Bartlett Memorial Hospital, which last week announced it was suspending non-urgent procedures for two weeks to cope with the surge of COVID patients requiring hospital treatment.

Petersburg has reported three deaths during the pandemic.

One out of 14 Alaskans tested for COVID-19 last week came back positive. The rate hasn’t been that high since the scary peak of last December.

All those positive tests are putting more people into hospital beds at the highest number since December. Anchorage emergency room doctors provided an update and stern warning to the municipal assembly last week. “We are on the verge of a hospital system collapse,” said Dr. Andrea Caballero, an infectious disease doctor who also works at Providence Hospital.

“That happens when you have the right number of patients and acuity, staff burnout, which leads to staff shortages, and supply shortages. This is a very, very imminent reality,” the doctor said.

Health care officials report that the Delta variant of COVID accounts for more than 90% of new cases in the state, with most of the cases coming from unvaccinated individuals.

Wrangell has recorded 34 new cases in the past two weeks — six on Tuesday alone — more than a 25% increase in the community count since March 2020. The borough closed City Hall due to staff exposure to the Coronavirus.

Hopefully, the numbers will get better soon, but maybe not.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, which was not requiring face masks in the classroom or on school buses, reported 59 infections in the first week of the new school year, as of Tuesday.

There is a good answer to the “COVID-19 Summer Surge,” as the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium calls it on its website: “With the current spike of positive cases across Southeast and the presence of variants, it is more important than ever to wear a mask in public, get vaccinated, practice physical distancing, wash hands frequently and get tested if you are symptomatic or suspect you have been exposed.”

Alaskans are starting to respond, though slowly. The statewide first-dose vaccination rate among eligible Alaskans crept up from 56% several weeks ago to 60% as of Tuesday. The rate for Wrangell also moved the needle a bit during the same period, from 61% to 64%.

Moving the needle by taking the needle is the best answer out there. It’s not a guarantee you will not get sick, but health care professionals report you are unlikely to get as sick as an unvaccinated individual. And isn’t it better to try to reduce the surge than to walk away and assume you will not end up in a hospital bed?


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