Prince of Wales Island medical providers, cities, schools, places of worship and outreach services are adjusting and responding to the ever-changing protocols, advisories and mandates aimed at slowing the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Medical facilities screen patients

Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium’s Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock and the PeaceHealth Medical Center in Craig have both created separate screening areas for patients entering their clinics or reporting coronavirus symptoms.

ARMC is one of SEARHC’s five “drive-by testing” locations, set up in the ARMC parking lot, said Jessica Priddy, FNP-C, local medical lead for the clinic.

“We are trying to limit exposure into the clinic of any sick individuals and to keep the general population safe,” she said.

As with any provider, anyone exhibiting symptoms is asked to call the clinic first. If directed to come to the drive-by site, they can call when they are about to arrive but should stay in their vehicle. A staff member will put on personal protective equipment and screen them to see if they meet COVID-19 testing criteria. If so, they will be tested there.

If they are visiting the clinic for other purposes and do not meet testing criteria, they will be given a mask before entering the clinic.

On Sunday morning, Priddy said all COVID-19 tests have returned negative.

SEARHC also has restricted non-emergent dental, optometry and elective surgery and patient travel, according to a press release.

The PeaceHealth Prince of Wales Clinic is screening all people who come through its doors and is restricting visitors, said PeaceHealth public relations official Mischa Chernick.

Screening takes place in the entrance to the building. Community Connections staff and customers who usually use the same entrance, are using the building’s west door.

PeaceHealth also is asking that only essential support people like a parent, caregiver or liaison accompany the patient.

“The less people that come into the building the better,” said Chernick

As of Sunday, there were no confirmed cases of the virus on Prince of Wales, said Craig Public Health Nurse Stacey Mank.

Craig Public Health is mostly fielding a lot of general questions about the virus by phone, said Public Health Nurse Kara McCoy. Her office has not been directed to conduct any tests yet but would do so if a case was confirmed, as part of the follow-up investigation. They are working with community partners on plans and staging for that possibility.

Tests should be prioritized for those who are showing symptoms and need to be tested, not anyone with general concerns, she said. Those with general coronavirus questions and other related needs can dial Alaska’s “211” number.

EMS Coordinator Chaundell Piburn said she began to assess emergency supplies and needs on the island a few weeks ago. They have had two trainings a week to make sure responders all stay as safe as possible and are prepared to give the best care to patients. They are also in contact with other Southeast EMS Services to better prepare for what might come.

“We will do the best we can for each and every patient we have on Prince of Wales,” she said.

Whale Tail Pharmacy in Craig has cleaned key areas and created a boundary space between the pick-up area and staff, said owner Julie McDonald.

She increased inventory of items she thought might be in demand and does not see any problems with medication availability. Staff can also take medication to people in their cars, if needed.  

Response to any confirmed cases of the virus will involve a group effort but the island has “a tight-knit health system here,” she said. In the event positive cases are reported, the pharmacy will work with local providers to deliver medication to those patients in the safest way for all.

Klawock issues emergency order

The Klawock City Council on Friday approved an emergency order stating anyone coming back from travel in a COVID-19 “hot zone” — especially Anchorage or Seattle — to self-quarantine for 14 days. That means people from other communities who fall into that category should not visit, stop or shop in Klawock, said Mayor Don “Nick” Nickerson. The order will be posted Monday.

“I will really rely on the residents to go by this executive order. I just think this is best thing we can do,” he said.

The city is also working to identify its elderly residents and their level of need, and to see that they are not overlooked.

The City of Craig on Thursday live-streamed its first Craig City Council meeting on Facebook, and will do so until further notice, said City Clerk and Public Information Officer Jill Carl.

Meanwhile, the city gym, aquatic center and rec center are all closed until April 1. The Craig Library remains open for phone-in orders and requests, which library staff will fill and bring to customers at the library door.

The city has readied its emergency operations center, established incident management team positions, stocked emergency supplies, and is monitoring and following State of Alaska, Alaska Public Health and CDC guidelines, said Carl.

In an effort to encourage residents to use non-contact methods of conducting business with the city, the Craig City Council on Thursday suspended the credit card payment fee until July 1.

Teri Feibel is acting administrator for the City of Thorne Bay. The council was holding a special telephonic meeting Friday night — its first ever — using WebEx, to consider a resolution to declare a local disaster emergency and an emergency ordinance authorizing the exclusive use of telephonic public meetings, she said.  

Feibel said the city is in contact with the City of Kasaan, Organized Village of Kasaan, island emergency responders and Public Health to make sure emergency supplies are stocked and available.

Thorne Bay city offices are closed to the public but business can be conducted by phone and email. The city’s solid waste site remains open and customers are encouraged to open a charge account to limit the contact with workers.

Hydaburg City officials were busy informing residents Friday about general recommendations from health and government officials, said Mayor Anthony Christianson. Essential services are being provided, but access to city, tribal and public buildings is limited and discouraged, he said.

Schools collaborate

Prince of Wales Island’s four school districts — Craig, Hydaburg, Klawock and Southeast Island Schools — have been collaborating regularly on their response to the coronavirus threat. All schools are now closed until May 1, following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s extension order on Friday. Distance-learning opportunities and support are being offered to all students in all districts using a variety of methods. Meals are also being provided on a take-out basis for students, however, that could look different for each school.

Craig Schools has spring break this week and will be providing breakfast and lunch to students, as well as educational support, starting March 30. The Craig District is developing a meal delivery schedule, which will involve locations other than school but along the district bus routes, said Superintendent Chris Reitan.

Klawock Schools begins providing brown bag lunches for students Monday while distance education begins March 30, said Superintendent Jim Holien. His staff, just back from spring break, are taking this week to prepare for remote school delivery.

  For the Southeast Island School District, breakfast and lunch services at each site, and educational support, will look different in each of their eight schools, said Superintendent Sherry Becker. Families should visit their school's Facebook page or the district website for information specific to their school. Services began Monday.

Depending on the availability of internet and cell service, instructional material delivery will also vary. High school students will continue to take online courses where possible to meet graduation criteria.

No new instruction will take place, said Becker.

“We will continue to support the knowledge (students) have already received through direct instruction,” she said.

 Beyond their educational needs, staff are also staying alert to students’ needs being met in the event their parents become sick, she said.

This week, Hydaburg City School District teachers and administration are working on a blended instructional model of home-based learning for students, to begin March 30, said Assistant Superintendent Camille Booth.

Grab-and-go brown bag lunches will be distributed from outside the cafeteria doors, from 11:30 a.m. to 1p.m. Monday through Friday.  

Superintendent Bart Mwarey has been working with AP&T to extend the school network throughout the community so that all students have equitable access to the Internet, said Booth.  

“Our Island educational community has been wonderful. The supports offered by both leadership and teachers during this unprecedented time have been invaluable,” she said.  

Services for those in need

Catholic Community Services has closed its lunchroom at the Klawock Senior Center and is instead delivering home meals, according to a posting. Anyone needing to sign up for home delivery can contact the Klawock Senior Center.

Meanwhile, door-to-door transportation is still available.

In Craig, the Child Care Center is closed until April 1, according to a Facebook posting.

Community Connections is taking many precautions within its service delivery on Prince of Wales, in addition to safe practices, according to an agency statement.

Services are not being provided to customers who exhibit signs or symptoms of being sick, and group services are being limited. However, therapists and service coordinators are calling and checking on customers with highest need. Curbside services like grocery and medication drop-off are being provided to those who cannot leave their homes or do not have any other support.  

The Prince of Wales Emergency Resources Thrift Store is closed to shoppers until further notice but remains open for those seeking aid, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, according to a Facebook posting.

Klawock’s Salvation Army is distributing food boxes, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. People may stop by their Summit Street citadel from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or request delivery to Craig or Klawock after 2 p.m. on those days.  Lieutenants Steven and Faith Hartt check the phones and Facebook Messenger regularly, and will answer requests as best they can.

Churches still support

Meanwhile, The Salvation Army has gone to Facebook Livestream only for its Sunday services.  

Craig’s Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints has canceled its weekly meetings and families are holding studies at home, said Hans Hjort. High school students will continue their seminary program via video chat with local instructors. Some missionaries will be coming home early or reassigned.

 The New Hope Baptist Church in Craig is hosting services on Sunday mornings and evenings and Wednesday evenings, said Pastor Elijah Helms. Church sermons can also be found on the church website, nhbccraigak.com. Playgroup and teen group are postponed.

Saint John’s Catholic Church in Klawock, along with all churches in the Diocese of Juneau, has suspended church services, however Sunday mass will be live-streamed at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The church remains open for those wanting prayer time.

Events, meetings cancelled or postponed

Twelve-step recovery meetings held at the Craig Public Health Center Conference Room have been cancelled until further notice.

Other notable events like Whalefest, have been cancelled, while the Chamber of Commerce Trade Show, HOPE’s Choose Respect March and POW Health Network’s Health Fair, have been postponed.