Providence bracing for potential coronavirus cases, offers social distancing advice

Kodiak is settling into a new routine of social distancing in the hopes of pushing off the possibility of a coronavirus case on the island. So far, Kodiak has not had a case of the virus, though the state of Alaska is at more than 60.

Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center is changing how they approach medical care during this time, limiting visitors to the hospital, closing the cafeteria to the public, and moving many appointments to a telehealth system.

“We’re really encouraging the public to stay home and shelter in place, and really follow those Governor’s orders,” said Gina Bishop, CEO of PKIMC. “We’re prepared, should we get a case and our teams are working really hard to make sure that we can care for folks.”

At the emergency room level too, the hospital is making sure to screen new patients for potential COVID-19 symptoms and recent travel history.

Dr. Steve Smith, PKIMC chief of staff, said Providence’s wide network of hospitals across the country has helped in ensuring that Kodiak’s hospital has the resources it needs to handle a potential case.

The hospital is able to equip staff with safety gear and keep potential coronavirus carriers in special, negative pressure rooms to prevent contagion. They’re also able to collect samples for coronavirus testing.

“The good news is right now we’re not seeing a lot of people who meet criteria to have a test collected,” said Smith. He clarified that they’re not able to evaluate a test for coronavirus on the island. Instead, they collect the sample in Kodiak and send it to a lab in Anchorage or Fairbanks to get results.

Mental health services have moved entirely to virtual communication, either through phone or video conferencing. Providence counseling serves about 100 people per month, according to Stephen Flora, clinical manager for Providence Kodiak Island Counseling Center.

Flora said that with the relatively quick shift to social isolation, it is entirely understandable that people might be experiencing anxiety or depression during this time.

“I think there’ll be an increase in anxiety. We are social creatures, and we’re being told not to be social, I think that will in and of itself, create some anxiety.” Flora suggests people get outside while practicing social distancing. “Walk somewhere you usually drive, you’ll see things you didn’t see before.”

He also recommended picking up an old hobby or project, and completing it. Apart from the value of finishing the project, he said, “When we have completed something with a purpose, it mitigates our anxiety and our depression. So that’s important to pick up a task and and see it through to completion during this downtime. I think that’s crucial.”

Flora also pointed Kodiak residents to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration hotline for people experiencing anxiety and depression during emergency and disaster situations. That number is (800) 985-5990.

Bishop, Smith and Flora were among our guests on this morning’s edition of The Lowdown, our daily coronavirus update show. If you have suggestions for guests or would like to submit a question, please call us at (907) 486-3181 or email

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