Assembly hears from health providers on COVID-19

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Two of the major health care providers in Juneau are keeping up with the preparations needed for COVID-19.

    The assembly received updates from the Public Health Unit and Bartlett Hospital as they respond to the virus.

    Sarah Hargrave, Nursing Supervisor with the Juneau Public Health Unit, said one person with coronavirus will infect 2.4 people if nothing is done to mitigate the risk.  The public health unit's goal is to reduce the transmission rate below one per patient.

    She stressed hand washing and other hygiene, social distancing, closure of schools and cancellation of public events, as measures used to control the virus.

    Transmission of the virus has been through close contact.  Close contact is described as being within six-feet of another person for at least 10 minutes.

    About 80 percent of secondary cases of the virus are through household contacts. 

    Hargrave said they ask patients to do the best that they can inside the home.  They recommend wearing a mask, using a separate bedroom and bathroom, constant cleaning of the bathroom, and isolating in the home as much as possible.

    The primary cause of transmission is respiratory droplets.

    Rose Lawhorne, Incident Commander at Bartlett Regional Hospital, gave details on the hospital plan to handle a surge in cases.  They have stopped elective surgery and that decision opened up staff members in surgery to help with virus patients.  Retired nurses and physicians have been contacted for any interest in assisting the hospital.  They have also stocked up on all supplies.  This includes 25 ventilators.  They have upgraded other oxygen equipment to use as ventilators.

    The Rainforest Recovery Center could be used for patients with mild symptoms.

    "We have basically doubled our capacity to care for patients.  At full max capacity we could handle 90 patients," she added.

    Lawhorne said there has been a reduction in visits to the hospital as she admitted most people don't want to come to the hospital right now.  "There has been kind of an eerie lull."

    She thanked the community for all of the donations they have received like medical gowns and masks.

    Alaska Airlines will reduce flights from Juneau from 12 to seven on Wednesday.

    The cold weather shelter at the JACC has averaged 38 people in recent nights due to the colder temperatures.  The CBJ also extended hours from 4 pm to 11 am daily at the shelter. 

    Assemblymembers urged residents to stay at home as much as possible and only go out for essential services.

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