Kodiak’s local medical workers are preparing the community with guidelines on how to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus within the community. As of Thursday, Alaska has nine cases of COVID-19. Kodiak still has no cases of the disease.
Dr. Evan Jones with Kodiak Area Native Association says one person in Kodiak has been tested so far. That person’s test came back negative.
“The person we tested had actually spent time at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. They had family members, and we were just concerned about getting spread out in the community through that person,” he said. “Because of that, we did test and thought it was a good idea. But we also do want to recognize when it enters the community.”
KANA’s advice for reducing risk of the virus should sound familiar by now — practice good hygiene and stay away from others as much as possible.
“Our big message to everybody is to — like we’ve been talking about — socially isolate from each other,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t go for walks on the beach or in the woods. It’s a great time to get out and spend some time in solitude. We’re just asking that you stay in small groups.”
Anyone can get the coronavirus, but those at highest risk of getting a serious or deadly case of COVID-19 are elderly people and people with other underlying health conditions. So even if you are young and healthy, without taking proper precautions you risk spreading a more serious case of the disease to someone who is not.
“I’m not worried about the 20-year-old who might get ill I’m worried about the 80-year-old who might get ill. But the thing is, it’s that starts with the 20-year-old not spreading any illness around, being responsible and isolating themselves.”
Dr. Elise Pletnikoff at KANA says differentiating between a common cold and COVID-19 can sometimes be tricky, but it’s a good idea to self-isolate regardless and call your symptoms in if you’re sick.
“People with fever, cough, shortness of breath should certainly — unless they have shortness of breath that’s concerning enough to need to seek medical attention — call in and probably stay home until they’ve been asymptomatic for at least one to two weeks,” she said. “People that think that they have the common cold, can call in and talk to us, but also should stay home and self isolate for two weeks.”
Deadly cases of COVID-19 typically involve respiratory failure, which is why ventilators are a key resource for handling the disease. Kodiak has five ventilators on island right now, according to Pletnikoff. In the event that someone needed to be on a ventilator, the goal would be to get that person transferred to a facility in Anchorage or elsewhere as soon as possible.
Pletnikoff says Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage has 50 ventilators and recently ordered 200 more.
KANA is offering phone triage for anyone who thinks they may have the virus — whether or not they are a KANA patient. That number is 907-486-9870.
They also recommend everyone follow some guidelines to stay healthy:
- Wash hands frequently. Before and after preparing food, and before you sit down to eat. Make sure to get under your fingernails.
- Work from home, if possible.
- To reduce time spent in public spaces, plan to do groceries less often. That said, there is still no need to stockpile more than a week’s or two’s worth of food.
- Take advantage of KANA’s telehealth services to see a doctor, and — unless it is a medical emergency — call your provider before coming in to the hospital.