Ketchikan emergency manager: Climbing COVID-19 case numbers could mean more ‘hunkering down’

A view of downtown Ketchikan, seen from the cruise ship Veendam. (Photo by Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

In Ketchikan, ten people have tested positive for the coronavirus over the last week. The top emergency official in Ketchikan says he’s concerned — and if the situation gets worse, he says he may recommend another stay-at-home advisory.

Abner Hoage directs Ketchikan’s local response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we see this continue to climb, as we have this week — if that were to continue into next week, you will find me going to the mayors and asking them to declare an emergency again, potentially where we’re asking people to hunker down, and I don’t want to get to that point,” Hoage told KRBD in a phone interview Thursday.

To avoid another shutdown, Hoage asks residents to double down on pandemic precautions. That means a renewed focus on physical distancing, mask-wearing when distancing isn’t possible — and, of course, hand-washing.

And Hoage says he’d like to see residents make fewer trips out of the house.

“So if we all do our part and, and reduce some of those activities for the next few days, we can slow down that potential spread that’s out there, get a good handle on it, and then continue on kind of like we’ve been doing,” he said.

Ketchikan’s emergency operations center announced a total of four new cases of COVID-19 between Wednesday and Friday. Officials say one likely acquired the virus out of state, and the source of two positive cases — who live together — remains under investigation.

Officials say they’ve all yet to recover, leaving 10 active coronavirus cases in Ketchikan.

“Until something changes significantly that lets us get out of this situation, we want to be able to continue with our lives somewhat and I think we’ve been able to do that for the past many weeks. We just can’t let it get ahead of us too far,” Hoage said.

Hoage says Ketchikan’s emergency operations center is working on criteria to determine the pandemic risk level of the community.

Those criteria could include things like the total number of coronavirus cases in Ketchikan, the virus’s spread within the community and the fraction of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — or what epidemiologists call the “test positivity rate.”

Ketchikan school district superintendent Beth Lougee said recently that guidance will help district officials determine how to best resume schooling in September.

It’s not yet clear when the guidance will be made public. But Hoage says a draft of the criteria will likely be available before Monday’s planned town halls on the school district’s reopening plans.