COVID-19 Brief: Thursday, April 2, 2020

Apr 2, 2020

Derotha Ferraro from South Peninsula Hospital, Nurse Lorne Carroll from the AK Department of Public Health, Chief Mark Kirko of Homer Volunteer Fire Department and Jenny Carroll from the City of Homer join KBBI's Kathleen Gustafson for the Thursday COVID-19 Brief.

If you do not have a health care provider and are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, call the Homer Public Health offices at (907) 235-8857.

KBBI: You are tuned to KBBI Homer AM 890 the time is 9:03 AM and this is the COVID-19 Thursday brief. In the studio Chief Kirko from Homer Volunteer Fire Department and the City of Homer. And on the phone, Jenny Carroll from the City of Homer, Derotha Ferraro from South Peninsula Hospital and Nurse Lorne Carroll from the Alaska Department of Public Health. Good morning, everyone. 

Good morning greetings from everyone.

KBBI: So I was hoping to start with Jenny Carroll from the City today. Jenny, what's on your list? 

Jenny: Well, I have a few things on my list and first of all is to thank you guys for putting on the story about our City of Homer website and I would say that our current focus in the PIO office, besides trying to keep everybody updated through our website, Facebook posts, and other ways that we're reaching out through KBBI radio PSAs or public service announcements, one of our focuses has been to really support the unified effort that we're seeing coming out of the community. Our community members, businesses, nonprofit organizations, are really stepping up to help with the response and the City of Homer wants to really support this unified effort. We are working right now to establish one list of, a clearing house I would say, of donations and volunteer offers that are coming from the community. The City is working to hook those people up as volunteers with organizations that are organizing those kinds of volunteer efforts or organizations that are offering relief, aid and financial things like rent support or taxi vouchers and connect people with all those resources. So what the City's hoping to do to make that efficient and useful is to have one spot on our website where people can go and enter their skills, equipment, programs that they are offering so that there's one clearing house and the right hands are working with the left hands to make this really work well for everyone. I encourage people to go to that site on our website and enter your information. We'll be reaching out to people to make those connections. 

KBBI: And that website is https://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/ and we link to it at KBBI. I also will be devoting parts of Wednesday morning and Sunday evening to updating people and reminding people to go there. And the whole purpose of this is to then finally connect people in need with those services.

Jenny: And that's our end goal there. If people have needs they can go to the City website too, and go to this spot, local resources and help needed, and we're there. We are starting to list a lot of the resources that have come in or they can call our helpline which is 435-3197. The donations and volunteering site will be built up, just right now we're having so much going on in the community, we're still getting a sense of everything that's happening. I want to say one last thing here is that we're seeing a lot of people coming back into the community from other places, as often happens as spring hits Homer and one of the resources that I want to ensure that people go to are resources where you can get your groceries delivered. One of the things that we want to make sure people hear is that when you come back into Homer, whether it's from somewhere else in Alaska or the lower 48, there is a 14 day quarantine for the benefit of you, your family, and the community. So don't just go drop your bags off and run to the store. That is going to really open up the opportunity for spreading possible COVID virus. So use those services in town. Call on your friends, call on some of the grocery delivery services and have them help provision your house for your 14 day quarantine. That'll be really important, not only for the community, but for our checkers at the grocery stores, at pharmacies, as those people are our other frontline workers who are keeping us all provisioned with the food and the medicines and supplies that we all need. So utilize those services that are out there in the community. And as we hear about more of those services, we'll be getting those on our website. 

KBBI: Well. Thank you, Jenny Carroll, I am going to open up the phones. The number is 235-7721 if you have a question for the Department of Public Health Nurse, Lorne Carroll, or Derotha Ferraro from South Peninsula Hospital. Chief Kirko for Homer Volunteer Fire Department, or Jenny Carroll from the City. But next I'd like to move on to Derotha because South Peninsula Hospital is rearranging the furniture. What's happening over there at the hospital right now? 

Derotha: Well, I love that headline, Kathleen. Thank you. Rearranges the furniture. So things look very different. We are very fortunate to have a large space at the hospital with a large footprint and we are working to use every single square foot of it to prepare for any anticipated needs. So last week at the last briefing we talked about kind of moving things out, that the infusion clinic left, physical therapy left. We moved as many nonessential services out of the building and then over the last couple of days, we've repurposed those areas. So our plan is that any COVID-19 positive hospitalizations, those patients will be, if they're at the hospitalization level, at a higher level, they will stay in the inpatient area. But in interest of flow and patient safety, folks there for other medical reasons, they will be seen and hospitalized in the surgery department or the physical therapy department. So we've turned those areas into new wards, if you will. For example, if a family member gets hospitalized for something today not related to COVID-19, they are going to be in a room in the surgery department or the physical therapy department.

KBBI: So Derotha, before you continue, I've got some questions here that I've collected from other people. Can you give an update on the number of tests conducted in Homer, the number that are pending and the number that are confirmed? I don't guess you can comment on the condition of the person who was medivaced out here last week.

Derotha: I cannot comment on that, but I can say that as of last night at 6:00 PM, we have conducted 64. We've sent in 64 test samples, we have received 46 negative, 1 positive, and the balance is pending. And the average turnaround time right now is three to five days. We send our samples, some to the state labs and some to Quest, which goes out of state and in the interest of fastest turnaround possible, a member, a staff member of South Peninsula Hospital, drives those samples up very early every morning from the day and night before. And we are working with Central Peninsula Hospital to share that responsibility and get tests from the Peninsula up to the state labs as soon as possible.

KBBI: And I'm going to go to the caller on the line. Hold on for just a minute. You are still staging helicopters, is that right? At South Peninsula Hospital where the drills continued today? 

Derotha: They might be beyond drill level today, but once the drill is over, if you will, then the helicopter intends to park on top of the hospital daily.

KBBI: Gotcha. So Cindy's on the line. Cindy, what's your question? 

Cindy: There's a lot of people that do have computer access and internet access. What about us who don't have that kind of access? I'm disabled, an amputee, otherwise very healthy, but I can't get information that I'd really like to access without trying to find somebody with a computer I can get into and I can't.

Derotha: Thank you for that question. And you're not alone. There are many people in that boat. If you have television, I would encourage you to tune in to the daily news..

Cindy: No TV at all so it is you on the radio. You're my lifeline. 

KBBI: Well, I'm so glad that we're here for you, Cindy, but Jenny Carroll from the City, you have a number for the Homer call line? 435-3197 Is that correct? That is correct. So, Cindy, do you have a pencil to write this down? 

Cindy: I have written it down

KBBI: And Jenny, you were going to say something? 

Jenny: Yeah, I would like add another number that you call. This is a number that's been put together by the state of Alaska. And it's just 211, very simple. 211, at that number, folks could ask general questions about COVID-19 and about resources on a variety of statewide services. They also have some medical providers on the phone to help you talk through, your symptoms or questions about COVID-19. So that is also a really great resource and it's easier to dial 211. The City number 435-3197 we're available six days a week, Monday through Saturday from 8:00AM to 5:00PM. 

KBBI: Okay. So, Cindy, did you get those numbers written down? 

Cindy: Yes. Thank you so much. I do appreciate it. 

KBBI: Thank you for calling.Okay. If you have any questions, call 235-7721 Next, Lorne Carroll, we missed you last week but I was hoping to get an update from you about are we all going to be recommended to wear masks soon? 

Lorne: You know, for healthy folks, it's not recommended to wear a mask, but I do have quite an update. The Public Health Nurses are in full response mode and what that means for us is that we're doing case investigations in contact tracing as well as emergency response planning with all of our partners across the state, but especially here on the Southern Kenai Peninsula. And then we're also continuing to offer mission critical services here at the Public Health Center, like offering flu vaccines for folks that are six months of age and older, just give a call for an appointment 235-8857. As of last night in the State of Alaska, we have 143 cases of COVID. That's 10 more from the previous day. And since March 12th, we have a grand total of nine hospitalizations and three deaths. Here in Homer on Southern Kenai Peninsula, we have just two cases and that's no change since this weekend and that's really evidence that in terms of community mitigation, like hunkering down, those measures that we're all taking to protect community health are working. Thanks.

KBBI: Thanks Nurse Lorne. Now, if anybody has any questions, we can take them at 235-7721. Chief Kirko from Homer Volunteer Fire Department. What's on your update list for today?

Chief Kirko: Thanks, Kathleen. We are just staying really busy at the City's EOC, the Emergency Operations Center, and just for those that don't really understand what we're talking about when we say Emergency Operations Center, basically that is going to be the pulse point for everything going on related to the COVID incident. We have multiple informational sharing meetings throughout the day with all of the partners from federal, state, and local levels and the borough. We have meetings within our own command level staff. To have an operation like this, it takes lots of people working at lots of different levels. The incident command structure is very simple. It has a command person to oversee and basically orchestrate the team and the team is made up of folks that do logistical work, a lot of planning work. There's a safety component that always has to follow everything that we're doing and then there's a finance part of course, cause all these emergencies actually cost, unfortunately, money. And then we have an operations section that is kind of tasked with getting things done. We have a very strong EOC team working for the City right now and they're doing a great job. There's so much to do, every single day something changes just a little bit. We are working on things like, on the long stretch of this, what does the economy look like? What does our tourism industry look like moving forward? How is it going to impact the fishing industry in our area? There's so much to consider and so much that needs to be evaluated and assessed and thought through before we can just go out and take some action on it. So we do have a good team for that. And it's a component of a lot of outside resources, but our City employees, Jenny Carroll works for the City. I work for the City, my operations chief, Dan Mickey works for the City, Brian Hawkins out the Harbor. All these people work for the City and they're trying to do not just their jobs as City employees, but they're also trying to manage a very, very difficult crisis. So we are tasked with a lot of different things.

KBBI: And one of the things that you and I talked about a little earlier was how do we get people rides from one place to another? And do that in a safe manner, right? Of all the things I'm hearing from people, that's the number one concern is that rightly so, taxis are, have reduced drivers and reduced hours, and there is no safe transportation right now, unless you own your own vehicle.

Chief Kirko: That's absolutely correct. If you have a vehicle, we would encourage you to use your vehicle, not try to go out and use anything else, for ride sharing. The problem that we run into is none of these taxi cab services in town though they have, you know, good, safe, strong vehicles, they're not set up for social distancing and trying to clean them at the end of a shift or even if they were doing it in between each ride, we're talking about giving one person a ride at a time cause you can't double up.There's just not enough room in a vehicle to do that and then how do you get that vehicle cleaned thoroughly in between, because we just don't know whether somebody who's not feeling well or not right at that moment doesn't mean that that's not going to change tomorrow. So this is not something that a group of hardy inventive volunteers can get together and solve. No. Well, I hope there's some out there and a few are out there.

Please get ahold of ideas, share some ideas on this. I mean, I have some thoughts that the bigger the vehicle, the farther we can keep people away. I know plenty of people who have old school buses, right? Those are safer options, but there's no good ones out there today.

KBBI: So if you've got any good ideas about that, email kathleen@kbbi.org or at the fire department, we have a website there that they can log onto and our Facebook. So I have a couple of questions here that people called in and didn't want to hang on the line. I think this one is for Nurse Lorne Carroll. Is it safe or smart to refill water jugs at Safeway? This also, I also have on my list, people asking what a droplet is. Is it a water droplet? Does it get in the water? Can you talk about if it's safe or smart to refill water jugs at Safeway? And a little bit about. What a droplet is. Yeah. Those are great questions.

Lorne: Thanks Kathleen. And thanks to the person that called in with the question. In terms of accessing water, that's really critical and essential, just like I'm getting gas at the pump. It's really great to be thinking about what are the best ways that you can prevent the transmission, which is through secretions of someone who is sick, and then you're touching them, and then touching your face and that's the main mode of transmission of COVID. Before and after filling your water bottles, it would be best to wash your hands. And then the same with gas pumps. And the second question in regards to what are droplets, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact, from person to person in respiratory droplets from someone who is infected and what respiratory droplets are microscopically large, they're kind of big droplets that are released when someone coughs or sneezes, those droplets may be infected with COVID if they're coming from someone that has COVID disease. Those big droplets really are in the air for a very short amount of time and then they drop out of the air usually within four to six feet from the person that coughed or sneezed, and it's contact with those droplets after they land on a surface and then touching your face, that's how transmission happens. 

KBBI: Thank you, Nurse Lorne. Also, I have a question which I believe is for Jenny Carroll. It says, will the City or HEA offer money or support for bills? And I know you have an answer for that, Jenny Carroll on the City. It's right there at https://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/  the City's website, right.

Jenny: I think there is an organization working in Homer to build a fund to assist organization sustaining people with financial needs. And many organizations across the City are figuring out how they can reduce people's fees or defer fees, given the economics. 

KBBI: There is definitely a phone number to call for the Salvation Army rent and utility assistance. That number is (310) 803-0588. And also the Church on the Rock has started with $25,000 into a fund. That also will be an individual relief fund for people to help pay their bills. That I think you can access at the Church on the Rock’s Facebook page, and also a hashtag I love Homer fund. So let's see. Sunrise is on the line, are you there? Sunrise, go ahead. 

Sunrise: I'm here with my one landline hooked to the wall. Which means I can't get these things off Facebook and stuff. Anyway I'm calling cause I am a health care worker and I work within a facility with five residents and there's about five of us who come and go and work there. So I'm concerned about testing. I'm a healthcare worker. I would like to be tested. I would like all of our staff to be tested and the five residents in our facility, and I heard this morning on the news that it takes 80 suppliers to make one ventilator and I'm just wondering what's the hold up on getting more testing like places like Germany testing the apparently healthy. I have a niece in Hawaii whose friend in Switzerland works in a larger assisted living home, and she was the youngest and she was the one who had it out of everybody, never felt one symptom, and after two weeks still hasn't showed  symptoms. 

KBBI: Okay. Sunrise, concerned about the testing and would like to be tested. I'm going to direct your comment to Derotha Ferraro from South Peninsula Hospital. How is testing going? How many tests have you performed again? 64 tested, 46 negative, 1 positive, the rest still returning. We're waiting on what's the possibility of people being allowed to be tested? 

Derotha: The hospital was following the state protocols right now, and they're somewhat restricted based on symptoms and risk and exposure. So risk being a health care worker doesn't count as a risk, being a health care worker does. And so the guidelines for state testing are right on http://coronavirus.alaska.gov/  already given to folks with symptoms. There's priority given to folks with known exposure. So there's a list, a whole triage list of priorities for testing. And so I would encourage anybody, especially in health care, to even reach out to their primary care provider. All of the docs and providers in town are using telemedicine, whether it's over the phone or the internet to assess a person's situation uniquely and make referral for testing based on that. So, at the moment, for somebody who hasn't had known exposure, somebody who's not in healthcare, who hasn't had known exposure, they would need to be showing signs and symptoms. But for that, there are some exceptions like health care. So I would encourage folks to give their provider a call in regards to Sunrise’s other questions about equipment and supply chain. This evening at five, and I'm very sorry that things change on an hourly basis, but at the moment, I believe it's scheduled for five, the state chief medical officer, she will be doing a one hour presentation tonight to the state, and it is exactly on those types of, of answers of where Alaska fits in the supply chain. Where do all of the rural communities play in the overall response? And it will be a statewide look at our response versus just kind of some numbers about how many have been tested and that and that type of thing. So I would really encourage folks to tune in. It's not going to be the standard press briefing. It's going to be a program of a planned program. 

KBBI: And then I have a question here for you Derotha about the capability of the hospital. Do you ventilate patients at South Peninsula Hospital? And what's your capacity for ICU and ventilators? Thank you for that question. 

Derotha: So the capacity changes again, on an hourly basis. So there's three components of capacity. There is floor space, if you will, space for care to happen. Then there's the right equipment and there's the right personnel. So all three of those have to align. You can't have tons of nurses and doctors without equipment or tons of equipment without the  skillset to use them. Right now the response is that mild patients would be treated at home because their symptoms would be manageable and they would recover at home. And moderate patients or folks that would need hospitalization, but without a high level of care, like maybe just oxygen. And so what we're doing, what we're planning to do with moderate needs cases is we've opened up an alternate care site and the alternate care site will handle those patients. And then more urgent needs patients will be cared for in the hospitals acute care unit. To answer the question, at the moment we have availability of nine ventilators and we have seven isolation rooms. If you had asked me yesterday we would have had four total isolation rooms, but thanks to the work of Lakeshore Glass and our logistics crew, you may have seen the big lifts happening yesterday in front of the hospital and we were able to totally convert three of our inpatient rooms to be negative pressure rooms.So every hour, it's an example of how every hour that we're not treating the pandemic, we're building capacity to care for people. So if, for example, those rooms had patients in them already, we would not have been able to convert them but because those rooms were not being utilized yet, we were able to add three more isolation rooms to our toolbox. So every day that we're slowing the spread of COVID-19 is another day for healthcare to prepare and ramp up to provide the care that people will need. 

KBBI: So thank you Derotha Ferraro from South Peninsula Hospital. Chief Kirko do you have any final comments to wrap up? 

Chief Kirko: Just the very last thing that Derotha said is exactly what we need people to consider. To still consider how important it is to keep that social distancing. That is the only way that we're going to see this curve change. We're doing our very, very best to make sure you have all of the resources you need, the information sharing. I think we found some things today that we can do to improve some information maybe for the folks once everybody gets their final comments, I just want everybody to kind of keep the faith, I think. I think there's going to be an end to this, and hopefully the harder we work today, the sooner the end shows up. So just keep the faith, keep working hard at following those social distancing rules. And we'll all get through this. 

KBBI: Thank you, Chief Kirko. Nurse Lorne Carroll from the Alaska State Department of Health, as a wrap up, I have two questions still here waiting for you. Are there any value to homemade masks? Do you think the biggest value is with social distancing?

Lorne: I think that CDC is likely to come out with some guidance on homemade masks, but that's not been released yet. To the best of my knowledge, the biggest value is to control the things that we can control. For example, from today's perspective, there's a national shortage on testing supplies and that shortage is true here in Alaska too. And we don't have any control over that today, but we can control those other things like social distancing or keeping a physical distance from each other and calling your medical home as soon as you have any signs and symptoms and staying connected.

KBBI: Nurse Lorne the last question I have here is someone called wanting their wife who is outside to come home to Alaska. Is this going to be possible? 

Lorne: The best answer to that would be to review the governor's mandates on travel. I think the best advice is to stay put and really limit travel to only absolutely necessary travel if it's possible to stay in place. That would be the best option today. 

KBBI: Okay. Thanks. Nurse Lorne Carroll from the Alaska Department of Health. Thanks for being here. And Jenny Carroll, any final comments from the City of Homer? 

Jenny: Sure. I'd like to weigh in a little bit on the mask question. Just last night, Alaska's chief medical officer, Dr Zink posted about homemade mask use. I would encourage people to check that out. It is on their Facebook page and it's http://dhss.alaska.gov/ the guidance on masks. We have an overwhelming number of volunteers wanting to help provide scrub caps and masks, and if you would like to be involved in that, you can go on the City website again to see who's helping to coordinate that for Homer. But the guidance right now is that if people want to wear their homemade face mask, that that is totally fine, but to know that they aren't foolproof, it can help lessen the distance that droplets may travel. If you unknowingly have the COVID virus and you're out in public, it may help you from touching your face. The state is collecting those as emergency backup. If we run short on PPEs, in some cases, the homemade masks can help extend the life of a PPE for a care worker. So. Lorne was right. The best thing we can do is hunker down, keep your six foot distance and know we'll get through this as resilient Alaskans. The new guidance coming out at least of the state is that if you feel better wearing a mask when you're out, that is fine. Homemade ones preferred so that we save the commercial grade ones for our health care workers on the frontline. And if you would like to read more about masks and do you have the right mask for the task? There is an article that she references on the John Hopkins school of public health, and that is called the right mask for the task. And you can go to https://www.jhsph.edu/ and look up that article. For those who are not on the worldwide web you can certainly call the Homer helpline and we can talk to you about homemade mask use what it does and what it doesn't do. So you're not foolproof when you're out there and your mask but it could help. 

KBBI: Great. Thank you. Jenny Carroll from the City of Homer and one last, I'm sorry. Thank you guys for staying so long. I have one last question here that I know is for Derotha and I think I know the answer, but I want to, I want to get it from an authority. How long is the test good for? The listener says they heard it's only accurate for one day. The test is really only accurate to the moment you took it. Is that correct?

Lorne: I can chime in on that one. The test only gives an idea if you may be infected that day and before that point in time. It has no value moving forward in regards to preventing the disease. So, absolutely, as a team on the Southern Kenai Peninsula we'll just have to continue a physical distancing and contributing to those other community mitigation measures. 

KBBI: Thank you, Nurse Lorne Carroll from the Alaska Department of Health. Thank you to Jenny Carroll from the City of Homer, Derotha Ferraro from South Peninsula Hospital, Chief Mark Kirko from the Homer Volunteer Fire Department and to everyone who called in. This has been the COVID-19 Thursday brief. Thank you all for listening. A little Django Reinhardt is going to play then I'm going to read some updates and some closures. Also, I have some good information from the City about landlord and eviction laws right now in case because it's the first of the month and if you haven't been working, you may not have the rent. So I've got some information to read about that. This is KBBI Homer, AM890 . You've been listening to the COVID-19 brief and you can go to https://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/ and then click on the COVID-19 button to access things like local resources and help with donations and volunteering so that you can stay informed and contribute how you can.