At Monday night's Homer City Council meeting, the Emergency Operations Center's weekly report opened with state public health nurse, Lorne Carroll addressing the question of how COVID-19 deaths are identified and classified.
“ Per national guidance, COVID-19 should be reported on a death certificate for those who have passed, where the disease is assumed to have had a cause, or contributed to a death. So, that's according to the attending physicians’ best judgement,” said Nurse Carroll.
When determining a cause of death, Carroll says it's important to consider COVID symptoms along with all the patient's health issues. He says mortality rates are higher for older patients because they often have multiple conditions and diseases.
“Reporting deaths has always been a challenge, most of it by the health care provider, certifying the death on the death certificate. Even small infections can be a tipping point that results in an individual losing their life, small things, even like urinary tract infections, for someone who has underlying issues.” Carroll said.
Derotha Ferraro, spokesperson for South Peninsula Hospital says in accordance with Alaska State Health Mandate 15, all patients undergoing procedures at the hospital are tested for COVID 19 regardless of their reason for admission. When COVID is determined to be a cause of death, Ferraro says, as a Critical Access Hospital, SPH receives no additional funding for the care of a COVID-19 patient or for reporting a death attributable to COVID-19.
“We are eligible for and are receiving stimulus funds which were designated specifically for hospitals to help offset the loss of revenue that resulted from being closed for nearly two months. And, we qualified for the Payroll Protection Program,” said Ferraro.
As of last Friday, the State of Alaska is in Phase II of the plan for reopening business and services. That means businesses that were already allowed to operate at 25% percent capacity in Phase I, may now serve at 50% capacity.
Newly reopened Phase II businesses, like bars, may now operate at 25% capacity.
Jenny Carroll from the City of Homer says the system doesn't work unless workers are able to stay home when they are sick and that one recommendation from the state is for businesses to keep a daily log of their customers’ names in order to assist contact tracers.
“And that is so that if there is a visitor to be contacted for an investigation for COVID, that there is some kind of log for tracking ability by those businesses,” said Carroll.
EMS and Fire Chief Mark Kirko rounded out the presentation, acknowledging the work of local health care professionals and city workers, and responding to Mayor Ken Castner's concern that the city make library computer resources safely available to the public as soon as possible. The building has been closed for seven weeks making it impossible for the city to provide internet access.
Homer Public Library has been providing drop off services in their parking lot, but with the relaxing of restrictions in Phase II, Kirko says he and HPL Director David Berry are working on making computer use safe and sanitary for library patrons.
“Dave and I have been talking about how to get that particular service back into the hands or the fingertips of the community. He's ordered cleanable covers for the keyboards at the library so that in between users, they can swap out while they're disinfecting the one that was previously used. I think once he gets that in place we'll see that reopen to the community,” said Chief Kirko.
You'll hear from the Emergency Operations Center team live on KBBI on Thursday, May 14 at 9 a.m.
If you have any questions for the team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.