SEARHC continues free COVID testing under state contract

SEARHC soon will move into its second year of providing free COVID-19 testing for Wrangell residents and visitors to the community.

The testing is covered under a state contract that had been scheduled to stop Dec. 31 but which has been extended to the end of the state budget year June 30, said Carly Allen, hospital administrator for the SEARHC-operated Wrangell Medical Center.

The state-funded tests for travelers and community members who are not showing any symptoms of the virus are available from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the testing trailer in the WMC parking lot, Allen said. No appointment is necessary.

The testing had been provided at the airport when the morning and afternoon Alaska Airlines flights landed, but SEARHC moved the operation to its parking lot two months ago.

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or were in close contact with an infected individual should immediately call the hospital at 907-874-7000 to schedule an appointment.

Testing in Wrangell has dropped off since November’s surge, Allen said. The community set a record that month with 66 reported new infections, about one-quarter of all the cases in town since the pandemic count started 21 months ago.

Just one case has been reported in Wrangell the past two weeks, according to the state health department website on Tuesday. Though the Omicron variant is sweeping across much of the country, responsible for an estimated three-quarters of all infections the past week, according to federal health officials, it has yet to produce high case numbers in Alaska.

Before November’s record case count, Wrangell’s worst month was August, with 48 reported cases. During that month, SEARHC administered almost 1,000 COVID tests.

The health care provider did not have current numbers for November or December’s testing volume in Wrangell.

As of Monday, SEARHC had administered over the course of the pandemic 175,000 tests in the Southeast communities it serves, reporting almost 3,200 positive cases, according to its website.

In addition to testing for the virus, SEARHC is busy with providing vaccinations. As of Dec. 13, it had administered more than 35,000 shots in Southeast, with almost 1,300 individuals in Wrangell receiving at least one vaccine dose.

About one-third of vaccinated individuals in Wrangell had received their booster shot as of last week, SEARHC reported.

As of Monday, about 65% of all eligible Wrangell residents 5 years old and up had received at least their first vaccination shot, with almost 62% fully vaccinated, according to the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

For residents 18 years and older, the rates are 72%with their first shot and 70% fully vaccinated.


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