In response to the coronavirus threat, the Inter-Island Ferry Authority put a modified schedule into place that will begin on Saturday with a no-sail day, according to information from IFA General ManagerRon Curtis.
The ferry will reduce travel days to Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday until further notice. Passenger counts will continue to be limited to 40 to allow for proper social distancing.
“We want to make sure we serve essential travel and medical and get folks home,” he said.
With ridership down, the IFA can reduce service and still remain within the self-imposed 40-passenger limit. Meanwhile, Prince of Wales Island city councils are declaring local disaster emergencies and urging residents to shelter in place and stay at home.
As of noon Wednesday, there were still no confirmed cases on the island, according to Public Health nurses Stacey Mank and Kara McCoy.
The Craig City Council on Tuesday, as part of its shelter-in-place resolution, even agreed to prohibit the use of city playground equipment to slow spread of the virus, which was welcome news for the Public Health nurses.
While people in general appear to be taking the hand-washing, social distancing and stay-at-home directives seriously, the nurses are concerned about parents still arranging indoor playdates between children.
Outdoor playdates are recommended during this time, for kids to the practice safe, social distancing that is meant for those outside their family, said McCoy.
Meanwhile, she and Mank, along with all Southeast Public Health nurses, are assisting with follow-up investigations for those communities that have identified cases of the virus. This will include identifying close contacts by telephone.
“We are helping pick up that load,” Mank said.
They also are meeting and partnering with local emergency responder and civic groups, answering questions from concerned community members and fielding updates from the Department of Health and Social Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public Health helped to inventory the contents of the island’s metropolitan medical response system container to pull together personal protective equipment and supplies and distribute to the island’s EMS groups, health care facilities, Public Health, Alaska State Troopers, Craig and Klawock Police, and the Craig Jail.
The island received the MMRS equipment a few years ago through a federal grant, and has not had to access it until this time, said Craig Emergency Operations Center Planning Section Chief Brian Templin.
It includes a small tent for additional shelter for treatment or testing, plus a substantial amount of cleaning, PPE and other emergency supplies, many of which are already in shortage, he said.
“It’s a huge benefit to Prince of Wales,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kasaan, Thorne Bay, Coffman Cove and Craig have now passed local disaster emergency declarations that not only draw attention to the seriousness of the situation, they can also set up communities to request additional resources and funding, allow them to activate other plans, and to make decisions or schedule meetings on an emergency basis, said Templin.
Most city halls and public buildings and facilities are closed to the public while delivery of services continues by phone or email. The use of non-cash payments and drop-boxes are encouraged.
Libraries have closed around the island. The Craig Public Library, although closed to the public, continues to take requests for materials by phone and email and will meet patrons at the door to deliver those. The library’s Wifi can also be accessed 24/7 from the parking lot.
On Tuesday, the Craig City Council met in emergency session to approve two resolutions related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Council members approved a resolution declaring an emergency and another for a stay-in-place advisory to businesses and residents of Craig.
The text of the advisory can be found on the city website, craigak.com.
The resolutions take effect immediately and will be revisited at the April 16 council meeting.
A lot of people are reaching out to one another through social media and by phone, said Klawock Mayor Donald “Nick” Nickerson. Klawock approved an emergency order on March 20 for people to self-quarantine for 14 days if they had passed through one of the coronavirus hot spots.
The city is delivering notices to the harbor, saying that herring pound fishermen are to do the same before coming into town, he said.
Thorne Bay Mayor Lee Burger issued a written request on March 23 for residents to hunker down, shelter in place and stay home.
“We are trying to move forward in the best possible way for our community,” said City Finance Director Dana Allison.
Hydaburg City Hall remains open, but few people are coming in, said City Administrator Natasha Peele. A letter from Mayor Anthony Christianson was distributed to all households, urging people to remain home and follow safe practices.
A quarter of Kasaan’s estimated 64 residents fall into the high-risk category, said Mayor Darl West. As mayor, he is suggesting everybody “keep to themselves,” he said.
The City of Kasaan and Organized Village of Kasaan are both offering mail and grocery delivery service to residents who call in orders. They are trying to minimize the traffic coming in to the community.
“We love people to come and visit, but we don’t recommend it right now,” West said.
Coffman Cove Mayor Jackie Sunde on Wednesday signed a proclamation strongly urging residents to hunker down, shelter in place and stay home, as well as practice social distancing and follow other guidelines provided by the state, according to the proclamation posted on the city website.
On Monday, the Coffman Cove Council will have a special meeting regarding the local incident command response plan, said City Clerk Gina Cavaretta.
In Whale Pass, Mayor Greg Cook is sending out regular updates to the estimated 100 residents now in the community, said City Clerk Randy Toman. The community also has created a courier service for residents. On Thursdays, a volunteer drives to Klawock, Craig and perhaps Thorne Bay, to pick up grocery and pharmacy orders and conduct business on behalf of people who need to stay at home.The small community has a lot of elderly, high-risk residents.
The Craig Tribal Association Public Transit bus remains suspended for the time being, as is the Southeast Senior Services van for seniors, said Donna Jackson.
Island Air Express continues to adjust its flight schedule, based on fluctuating flight loads.
Taquan Air has limited its passenger service to essential personnel only — law enforcement, medical, military and official business —according to information from the company.
For seniors, Senior Services is still delivering home lunches to elders who sign up, while its lunchroom is closed. Also, they are delivering prescriptions for Craig and Klawock seniors, said Jackson. For the latest state mandates and health alerts, visit coronavirus.alaska.gov.
These and other relevant links can also be found on many city websites.