COVID-19 Update: Contact tracers at the health dept. and expanded visitor privileges at SPH

Sep 15, 2020

Credit KBBI

Homer's COVID -19 Incident Command addressed Homer City Council during Monday's meeting.

Nurse Lorne Carroll told the Council that of the three public health nurses on the Southern Peninsula, oneis completely dedicated to contact tracing and his own time is over 90 percent occupied by contact tracing.

Nurse Carroll says the Homer Public Health Center is working toward resuming their work on opioids, TB andother concerns that have not gotten as much attention lately.“At this point in the pandemic, we feel that the contact tracing is particularly important and we'recontinuing to build a surge workforce. And what I mean by that is folks that can maybe take the place ofthe health nurses that are doing thatcontact tracing. Other threats continue in the community and inAlaska, like TB opioids, overdoses throughout the state, all the same health threats from pre COVID,” said Nurse Carroll. Derotha Ferraro, spokesperson for South Peninsula Hospital told that council that since the hospital hasnot identified any COVID cases through the hospital in over 25 days, they are expanding the number ofvisitors allowed in the hospital. “Hospitalized patients in acute care who are not COVID positive, are now permitted up to two visitors ata time by invitation. Those visitors must mask and be a household member or a close contact of thatpatient. OB patients and patients who are COVID positive or are under investigation can have onedesignated visitor. ER.,surgery, radiology patients, they all remain at one visitor can accompany them pervisit as needed. And the PT rehab department does permit a visitor, only if essential for the patient's visit.And it must be pre-approved proof by staff,” Ferraro said. SPH Long Term Care remains closed to visitors. Ferraro also reported to the council that SPH can nowprocess COVID antibody tests at the hospital. The tests were previously sent out of state.
 Although there have been two positive COVID cases reported in residents of the Southern Peninsula inthe last two weeks, the cases were not identified at the South Peninsula Hospital. The case count inHomer is very low, prompting Mayor Castner to ask the Incident Command Team if they have any recommendations for opening Homer City Hall and other public spaces to visitors. “But when we go 26 days without a case here... I want to go out and congratulate all the people that havebeen cooperating in masking, in showing some tolerance with their neighbors. And I also want to startworking into some sort of a plan. At what point do we say we can ease things up? We can open up cityhall again, we can open the library again,” Mayor Castner said. Nurse Carroll was encouraging, but recommended caution considering that schools recentlystarted in-person classes. “You know, when we haven't had a real obvious prevalence of COVID-19, that would be indicative thatperhaps the virus is not circulating as much as it was back in June, but also validating, yeah, the virus isstill out there. And I think that we're going to see plenty of spikes come and go in the future," said Nurse Carroll. The Homer COVID Incident Command Team will be taking questions live on KBBI on Thursdaymorning at 9 a.m. During their regular, weekly COVID-19 Brief. If you have any questions you'd like tohear addressed, you can email questions for the team to kathleen@kbbi.org, or call-in this Thursdaymorning during the show.